Combining Passive Sampling with Toxicological Characterization of Complex Mixtures of Pollutants from the Aquatic Environment

  • Annika JahnkeEmail author
  • Gesine Witt
  • Sabine Schäfer
  • Nora Haase
  • Beate I. Escher
Part of the Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology book series (ABE, volume 157)


The combination of polymer-based passive sampling to collect complex environmental mixtures of pollutants, the transfer of these mixtures into bioassays, and their related toxicological characterization is still in its infancy. However, this approach has considerable potential to improve environmental hazard and risk assessment for two reasons. First, the passive sampler collects a broad range of chemicals representing the fraction of compounds available for diffusion and (bio)uptake, excluding a large part of the matrix; thus, extensive sample cleanup which could discriminate certain compounds can be avoided. Second, the toxicological characterization of samples using bioassays is complementary to chemical (target) analysis within environmental monitoring because it captures all chemicals exerting the same mode of toxic action and acting jointly in mixtures, thus providing a comprehensive picture of their overall combined effects. The scientific literature describes a range of examples from the water phase where passive sampling is usually carried out in the kinetic uptake regime for most chemicals although some may already have reached equilibrium. The composition of the chemical mixture changes from the water phase to the passive sampling material because of kinetic effects and polymer/water partition coefficients which depend on the chemicals’ hydrophobicity. In contrast, only a few applications in sediment and biota have been described, but amongst these some pioneering studies have demonstrated the feasibility and potential of this combined approach. This chapter gives an overview of what has been carried out in this research area, focusing on opportunities and challenges, and points out desirable future developments with a focus on the importance of choosing a suitable combination of sampling and dosing to transfer (or re-establish) the environmental mixture into the bioassay.


Aquatic environment Environmental monitoring Hazard and risk assessment Hydrophobic organic chemicals Mixture toxicity Passive sampling 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annika Jahnke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gesine Witt
    • 2
  • Sabine Schäfer
    • 3
  • Nora Haase
    • 1
  • Beate I. Escher
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Cell ToxicologyHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Department of Environmental EngineeringHamburg University of Applied SciencesHamburgGermany
  3. 3.Department BiochemistryEcotoxicology, German Federal Institute of HydrologyKoblenzGermany
  4. 4.Environmental Toxicology, Center for Applied GeoscienceEberhard Karls University TübingenTübingenGermany

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