Toxic equivalent concentrations (TEQs) for baseline toxicity and specific modes of action as a tool to improve interpretation of ecotoxicity testing of environmental samples†
The toxic equivalency concept is a widely applied method to express the toxicity of complex mixtures of compounds that act via receptor-mediated mechanisms such as induction of the arylhydrocarbon or estrogen receptors. Here we propose to extend this concept to baseline toxicity, using the bioluminescence inhibition test with Vibrio fischeri, and an integrative ecotoxicity endpoint, algal growth rate inhibition. Both bioassays were validated by comparison with literature data and quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs) for baseline toxicity were developed for all endpoints. The novel combined algae test, with Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata, allows for the simultaneous evaluation of specific inhibition of photosynthesis and growth rate. The contributions of specific inhibition of photosynthesis and non-specific toxicity could be differentiated by comparing the time and endpoint pattern. Photosynthesis efficiency, measured with the saturation pulse method after 2 h of incubation, served as indicator of specific inhibition of photosynthesis by photosystem II inhibitors. Diuron equivalents were defined as toxicity equivalents for this effect. The endpoint of growth rate over 24 h served to derive baseline toxicity equivalent concentrations (baseline-TEQ). By performing binary mixture experiments with reference compounds and complex environmental samples from a sewage treatment plant and a river, the TEQ concept was validated. The proposed method allows for easier interpretation and communication of effect-based water quality monitoring data and provides a basis for comparative analysis with chemical analytical monitoring.