Bioavailability of Soil-Borne Chemicals: Method Development and Validation
Chemicals present in contaminated soils generally exhibit altered bioavailability compared to other vehicles used in studies of chemical toxicity. Methods used to assess the bioavailability of soil-borne chemicals have generally been modified versions of methods that are widely used in biomedical research. Oral and dermal bioavailability of semivolatile organic chemicals and metals in soil has been assessed by a variety of in vivo and in vitro methods. Due to variations in metabolism and excretion of different chemicals, approaches to measuring bioavailability must be selected with an understanding of disposition of the chemical being studied. Standard methods need to be modified due to constraints associated with doses relevant to environmental concentrations, the need to reflect weathering behavior in soils over time, and the need to generate data applicable to human health risk assessments. Estimates of relative bioavailability for chemicals in soil can be used directly to modify exposure estimates. Application of bioavailability data in a site-specific risk assessment requires regulatory acceptance of the data. Acceptance of the data will generally be dependent on either the use of a validated test method or a careful scientific review of the test method employed. A process for validating newly developed alternative toxicity methods for routine use developed by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods provides relevant guidance for assessing in vitro methods, but method validation should not be the only litmus test for inclusion of bioavailability data in risk assessments.