Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles

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Aquatic Toxicology



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CROSERF, Aquatic toxicity test methods, Aquatic toxicology


Laboratory toxicity testing is a key tool used in oil spill science, spill effects assessment, and mitigation strategy decisions to minimize environmental impacts. A major consideration in oil toxicity testing is how to replicate real-world spill conditions, oil types, weathering states, receptor organisms, and modifying environmental factors under laboratory conditions. Oils and petroleum-derived products are comprised of thousands of compounds with different physicochemical and toxicological properties, and this leads to challenges in conducting and interpreting oil toxicity studies. Experimental methods used to mix oils with aqueous test media have been shown to influence the aqueous-phase hydrocarbon composition and concentrations, hydrocarbon phase distribution (i. e., dissolved phase versus in oil droplets), and the stability of oil:water solutions which, in turn, influence the bioavailability and toxicity of the oil containing media. Studies have shown that differences in experimental methods can lead to divergent test results. Therefore, it is imperative to standardize the methods used to prepare oil:water solutions in order to improve the realism and comparability of laboratory tests. The CROSERF methodology, originally published in 2005, was developed as a standardized method to prepare oil:water solutions for testing and evaluating dispersants and dispersed oil. However, it was found equally applicable for use in testing oil-derived petroleum substances. The goals of the current effort were to: (1) build upon two decades of experience to update existing CROSERF guidance for conducting aquatic toxicity tests and (2) to improve the design of laboratory toxicity studies for use in hazard evaluation and development of quantitative effects models that can then be applied in spill assessment. Key experimental design considerations discussed include species selection (standard vs field collected), test substance (single compound vs whole oil), exposure regime (static vs flow-through) and duration, exposure metrics, toxicity endpoints, and quality assurance and control.





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This work was supported through the Government of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans Multi-Partner Research Initiative.

© 2023 The Authors.

Peer Reviewed