The presence of dioxin-like compounds in sediments from harbors and reference sites along the Dutch coast was investigated using the dioxin receptor–chemically activated luciferase gene expression (DR-CALUX) bioassay. The DR-CALUX response varied between 0.2 and 136 ng/kg dry weight expressed in units of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) toxic equivalency quotients (TEQ). The highest CALUX-TEQ values (>50 ng TEQ/kg dry wt) were found in sediments from the center of the Port of Rotterdam and from the North Sea canal near Amsterdam. The DR-CALUX activity of harbor sediments was classified by setting guideline values. None of the 257 harbor sediment samples investigated exceeded the maximum value of 1,000 ng TEQ/kg, while 94% of the samples fail the target value of 2 ng TEQ/kg. Threshold values (25 and 50 ng TEQ/kg) are intended as pass/fail criteria for offshore disposal of dredged material and were exceeded in 12 and 3% of the samples, respectively. DR-CALUX response did not always match with contamination of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as determined in bulk sediments (Σ7-PCB ranging from <1 to 456 μg/kg dry wt). Concentrations of planar PCBs, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated-dibenzofuranes (PCDFs), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), and polybrominated-diphenylethers (PBDEs) were determined in 20 selected sediment extracts. On average, PCDD/Fs explained 50% of the DR-CALUX activity and planar PCBs 6%. Further research is needed to elucidate the unexplained part of the DR-CALUX response. The DR-CALUX is a highly sensitive and reproducible bioassay that can usefully complement standard PCB analysis, improving the hazard assessment of the disposal of dredged material in the North Sea.
Stronkhorst, J., Leonards, P. E. G., & Murk, A. J. (2002). Using the dioxin receptor-calux in vitro bioassay to screen marine harbor sediments for compounds with a dioxin-like mode of action. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 21(12), 2552-2561. https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.5620211205