Bioavailability of Soil-Borne Chemicals: Abiotic Assessment Tools
The abiotic tools that are available, or under development, for evaluating the oral and dermal bioavailability of contaminants from soils are described in this article. These tools generally rely on one of two approaches: (1) characterizing the form of the contaminant and the chemical binding of the contaminant to the soil matrix, and (2) chemical extractions intended to evaluate the fraction of the chemical that would be liberated in biological fluids (gastrointestinal fluid or sweat). For the purpose of human health risk assessment, abiotic methods to estimate the bioavailability of inorganic contaminants in soil are considered generally to be “screening” level tools at this time. Development work for physiologically based extraction tests (PBETs) is ongoing for many inorganic contaminants, and these methods hold great promise for eventual use in making quantitative bioavailability adjustments in risk assessment. The availability of abiotic tools to evaluate the bioavailability of organic contaminants from soils lags behind that for metals, due to the difficulty in conducting in vivo bioavailability studies with organic compounds and their complex interactions with soil. However, considerable research is being conducted in this field, and new assessment tools are being validated for use in human health risk assessment.