Effect-Directed Analysis of Key Toxicants in European River Basins. A Review (9 pp)
Background, Aim and Scope
Extensive monitoring programs on chemical contamination are run in many European river basins. With respect to the implementation of the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD), these programs are increasingly accompanied by monitoring the ecological status of the river basins. Assuming an impact of chemical contamination on the ecological status, the assignment of effects in aquatic ecosystems to those stressors that cause the effects is a prerequisite for taking political or technical measures to achieve the goals of the WFD. Thus, one focus of present European research is on toxicant identification in European river basins in order to allow for a reduction of toxic pressure on aquatic ecosystems according to the WFD. Main Features: An overview is presented on studies that were performed to link chemical pollution in European river basins to measurable ecotoxic effects. This includes correlation-based approaches as well as investigations that apply effect-directed analysis (EDA) integrating toxicity testing, fractionation and non-target chemical analysis. Effect-based key toxicants that were identified in European surface waters are compiled and compared to EU priority pollutants. Further needs for research are identified. Results: Studies on the identification of effect-based key toxicants focused on mutagenicity, aryl hydrocarbon receptor-mediated effects, endocrine disruption, green algae, and invertebrates. The identified pollutants include priority pollutants and other well-known environmental pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, furans, and biphenyls, nonylphenol, some pesticides and tributyltin, but also other compounds that were neither considered as environmental pollutants before nor regulated such as substituted phenols, natural or synthetic estrogens and androgens, dinaphthofurans, 2-(2-naphthalenyl)benzothiophene, and N-phenyl-2-naphthylamine. Discussion: Individual studies at specific sites in a European river basin demonstrated the power of combined biological and chemical analytical approaches and, particularly, of effect-directed analysis. However, the available information on effect-based key toxicants is very limited with respect to the entirety of rivers possibly at risk due to chemical contamination and with respect to toxicological endpoints considered at a specific site. A relatively broad basis of information exists only for estrogenicity and aryl hydrocarbon, receptor-mediated effects. Conclusions: The development of tools and strategies for an identification of key toxicants on a broader scale are a challenging task for the next years. Since investigations dealing with toxicant identification are too labor and cost-intensive for monitoring purposes, they have to be focused on the key sites in a river basin. These should include hot spots of contamination, particularly if there is evidence that they might pose a risk for downstream areas, but may also involve accumulation zones in the lower reach of a river in order to get an integrated picture on the contamination of the basin. Perspectives: While EDA is almost exclusively based on measurable effects in in vitro and in vivo biotests to date, an increasing focus in the future should be on the integration of EDA into Ecological Risk Assessment and on the development of tools to confirm EDA-determined key toxicants as stressors in populations, communities and ecosystems. Considering these requirements and applied in a focused way, toxicant identification may significantly help to implement the Water Framework Directive by providing evidence on the main stressors and possible mitigation measures in order to improve the ecological status of a river ecosystem.
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