Including Bioconcentration Kinetics for the Prioritization and Interpretation of Regulatory Aquatic Toxicity Tests of Highly Hydrophobic Chemicals

Jung Hwan Kwon, So Young Lee, Hyun Joong Kang, Philipp Mayer, Beate I. Escher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Worldwide, regulations of chemicals require short-term toxicity data for evaluating hazards and risks of the chemicals. Current data requirements on the registration of chemicals are primarily based on tonnage and do not yet consider properties of chemicals. For example, short-term ecotoxicity data are required for chemicals with production volume greater than 1 or 10 ton/y according to REACH, without considering chemical properties. Highly hydrophobic chemicals are characterized by low water solubility and slow bioconcentration kinetics, which may hamper the interpretation of short-term toxicity experiments. In this work, internal concentrations of highly hydrophobic chemicals were predicted for standard acute ecotoxicity tests at three trophic levels, algae, invertebrate, and fish. As demonstrated by comparison with maximum aqueous concentrations at water solubility, chemicals with an octanol-water partition coefficient (Kow) greater than 106 are not expected to reach sufficiently high internal concentrations for exerting effects within the test duration of acute tests with fish and invertebrates, even though they might be intrinsically toxic. This toxicity cutoff was explained by the slow uptake, i.e., by kinetics, not by thermodynamic limitations. Predictions were confirmed by data entries of the OECD's screening information data set (SIDS) (n = 746), apart from a few exceptions concerning mainly organometallic substances and those with inconsistency between water solubility and Kow. Taking error propagation and model assumptions into account, we thus propose a revision of data requirements for highly hydrophobic chemicals with log Kow > 7.4: Short-term toxicity tests can be limited to algae that generally have the highest uptake rate constants, whereas the primary focus of the assessment should be on persistence, bioaccumulation, and long-term effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12004-12011
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Nov 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was partly supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant (No. 2012R1A1B4000841) and the Korea Ministry of Environment (MOE) as The Chemical Accident Prevention Technology Development Project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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