Development of a bioanalytical test battery for water quality monitoring: Fingerprinting identified micropollutants and their contribution to effects in surface water.Water Res. 2017 10 15; 123:734-750.WR
Surface waters can contain a diverse range of organic pollutants, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals and industrial compounds. While bioassays have been used for water quality monitoring, there is limited knowledge regarding the effects of individual micropollutants and their relationship to the overall mixture effect in water samples. In this study, a battery of in vitro bioassays based on human and fish cell lines and whole organism assays using bacteria, algae, daphnids and fish embryos was assembled for use in water quality monitoring. The selection of bioassays was guided by the principles of adverse outcome pathways in order to cover relevant steps in toxicity pathways known to be triggered by environmental water samples. The effects of 34 water pollutants, which were selected based on hazard quotients, available environmental quality standards and mode of action information, were fingerprinted in the bioassay test battery. There was a relatively good agreement between the experimental results and available literature effect data. The majority of the chemicals were active in the assays indicative of apical effects, while fewer chemicals had a response in the specific reporter gene assays, but these effects were typically triggered at lower concentrations. The single chemical effect data were used to improve published mixture toxicity modeling of water samples from the Danube River. While there was a slight increase in the fraction of the bioanalytical equivalents explained for the Danube River samples, for some endpoints less than 1% of the observed effect could be explained by the studied chemicals. The new mixture models essentially confirmed previous findings from many studies monitoring water quality using both chemical analysis and bioanalytical tools. In short, our results indicate that many more chemicals contribute to the biological effect than those that are typically quantified by chemical monitoring programs or those regulated by environmental quality standards. This study not only demonstrates the utility of fingerprinting single chemicals for an improved understanding of the biological effect of pollutants, but also highlights the need to apply bioassays for water quality monitoring in order to prevent underestimation of the overall biological effect.