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It has been known for many years that the toxic effects levels of metals to aquatic organisms are affected by water quality characteristics. However, the limited understanding of the underlying mechanisms and the complex nature of these interactions has led regulatory agencies in the United States and elsewhere to develop water quality criteria (WQC) for metals that have historically neglected to consider most water quality characteristics, other than hardness. The result has been that previously applied hardness-based national ambient WQC could be either over protective or under protective relative to the level of protection that was intended by EPA guidelines for deriving WQC. Methods for evaluation of site-specific criteria from toxicity test data, such as the water effect ratio (WER) methodology, have subsequently been released by EPA to overcome this limitation. However, such tests can be both expensive and time-consuming to perform. The need for a more efficient alternative to these methods ultimately led to the development of the biotic ligand model (BLM), an analytical tool that can be used to explain and predict the effects of water quality characteristics on the bioavailability and toxicity of metals to aquatic organisms. The structure of the BLM will be reviewed briefly and examples of how it predicts acute effect levels that vary with water chemistry presented. Ongoing investigations related to assessing the importance of the dietary route of exposure to metals will also be discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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