An algal growth inhibition test procedure with soil suspensions is proposed and evaluated for PAH-contaminated soil. The growth rate reduction of the standard freshwater green alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata (formerly known as Selenastrum capricornutum) was used as the toxicity endpoint, and was quantified by measuring the fluorescence of solvent-extracted algal pigments. No growth rate reduction was detected for soil contents up to 20 g/l testing five non-contaminated Danish soils. Comparative testing with PAH-contaminated soil elutriates and soil suspensions showed that the suspensions had toxicity endpoints 2.5-3000 times lower than tests with the corresponding elutriates. Algal growth inhibition tests with soil suspensions are recommended for screening purposes as a supplement to elutriate testing. Experiments with a phenanthrene-spiked soil, showed that the sorbed compound did not contribute to the toxicity. However, the soil did act as a reservoir for phenanthrene, allowing desorption to occur continuously during the algal test which maintained higher concentrations of phenanthrene in the dissolved phase. Phenanthrene-spiked soil incubated for 90 days before algal testing, resulted in a reduction of the toxicity to P. subcapitata by a factor of 76 (from EC10 = 0.3 to 23.6 g soil/l). However, during this 90-day period the total concentration of phenanthrene in the soil decreased by 38% (from 322 to 199 mg/kg) indicating that phenanthrene in the aged soil had become less bioavailable. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.