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A new method for estimating sedimental integrated toxicity of heavy metal mixtures to aquatic biota: a case study

Abstract

The existing methods of measuring combined toxicity of heavy metal mixtures in environment do not fully consider three major factors (i.e., number of heavy metal species, aquatic biota, all investigated sites as an entity). Herein, a new method named joint probabilistic risk (JPR) method is proposed for evaluating the combined toxicity of heavy metal mixtures to aquatic biota. In this new method, the above three factors are fully taken into account. In order to evaluate the feasibility of the new method, the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) is selected as a case study. Concentrations of heavy metals (Cd, Pb, Cr, Ni, Cu, and Zn) in surface sediments of PRE are investigated and toxic equivalent factors (TEFs) of these heavy metals are calculated. Based on TEFs, sedimental concentrations of heavy metals of PRE are converted to Cd toxic equivalent concentration (Cdeq), while the Cd toxicity data (Cdto) are extracted from the literature. The probability density curves for Cdeq and Cdto are constructed and the overlap area is quantified as 0.2497. This indicates that the surface sediments of PRE have a 24.97% probability of toxic effect towards aquatic biota. Finally, this new method is validated by two indirect methods of mERMq and mPELq.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2019YFD0901105) and the Central Public-interest Scientific Institution Basal Research Fund, South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, CAFS (2018ZD01). We are also grateful to anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.

Author Contribution

Y-GG: Supervision, Conceptualization, Visualization, Original draft preparation, Writing-Reviewing, Methodology, Validation. Y-PG: Investigation and Data curation.

Funding

This study was funded by the National Key R&D Program of China (2019YFD0901105) and the Central Public-interest Scientific Institution Basal Research Fund, South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, CAFS (2018ZD01).

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Correspondence to Yang-Guang Gu.

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Gu, YG., Gao, YP. A new method for estimating sedimental integrated toxicity of heavy metal mixtures to aquatic biota: a case study. Ecotoxicology 30, 373–380 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10646-021-02346-0

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Keywords

  • Heavy metals
  • Sediments
  • Toxic response factors
  • Cd toxic equivalent concentration
  • Probability risk assessment