Extraction and bioanalysis of the ecotoxicologically relevant fraction of contaminants in sediments

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Assessments of the risk connected to the contamination of soils and sediments should rely on a multidisciplinary approach based on both chemical and biological techniques (i.e., the sum of exposure and effects assessment). The dioxin-responsive, chemical-activated luciferase expression (DR-CALUX) bioassay is widely applied for evaluation of the toxicity of sediments after an exhaustive extraction of the contaminants, and results are used for risk assessment purposes. Approaches based on total extraction of contaminants do not take into account the importance of bioavailability and aging processes, thus leading to possible overestimations of risk. In the present work, an approach based on nonexhaustive extraction techniques in combination with an in vitro reporter gene assay was tested on sediment samples contaminated with dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other xenobiotics. Tenax and hydroxypropyl-ß-cyclodextrin (HPCD) extractions over time were carried out to determine the bioavailable fractions, whereas the residual fractions were determined by means of a microwave-assisted exhaustive extraction. For both fractions, contaminant concentrations were quantified by gas chromatography¿mass spectrophotometry, and the toxic potency was determined by the DR-CALUX assay. Assessments of bioavailable fractions of PCBs by Tenax and HPCD gave comparable results and showed that after several years of aging, a considerable fraction (38¿70% of the total content for different PCBs) is still available and ecotoxicologically relevant. Coupling of nonexhaustive extraction and bioanalyses leads to a more realistic and, generally, much lower estimated risk for the toxicity of the extracts as compared to commonly adopted exhaustive techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2122-2128
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • in-vitro bioassay
  • polychlorinated-biphenyls
  • aromatic-hydrocarbons
  • organic contaminants
  • pah bioavailability
  • beta-cyclodextrin
  • expression calux
  • techniques neets
  • soils
  • dioxin

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