Controlling and maintaining exposure of hydrophobic organic compounds in aquatic toxicity tests by passive dosing

Kilian E.C. Smith, Nathalie Dom, Ronny Blust, Philipp Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The risk assessment of hydrophobic organic compounds (HOCs) in aquatic toxicity or bioconcentration tests is a challenge due to their low aqueous solubilities, sorption and losses leading to poorly defined exposure and reduced test sensitivity. Passive dosing overcomes these problems via the continual partitioning of HOCs from a dominating reservoir loaded in a biocompatible polymer such as silicone, providing defined and constant freely dissolved concentrations and eliminating spiking with co-solvents. This study characterised the performance of a passive dosing format for aquatic tests with small organism such as invertebrates and algae, consisting of PDMS silicone cast into the base of the glass test vessel. The PDMS silicone was loaded by partitioning from a methanol solution containing PAHs (log K(OW) 3.56-6.63) as model compounds, followed by removal of the methanol with water. This resulted in highly reproducible PDMS silicone HOC concentrations. When shaking, release of PAHs into aqueous solution was rapid and reproducible, and equilibrium partitioning was reached within 5 h for all compounds. The buffering capacity was sufficient to maintain stable concentrations over more than 10 weeks. This format was applied in a 48 h Daphnia magna immobilisation assay to test the toxicity of a range of PAHs at their aqueous solubility. D. magna immobilisation did not show a trend with aqueous solubility or hydophobicity (K(OW)) of the PAHs. However, the immobilisation data for all compounds could be fitted with one maximum chemical activity response curve. Those PAHs with the lowest maximum chemical activities resulted in no immobilisation. Naphthalene and phenanthrene showed full toxicity at aqueous solubility, and passive dosing was also used for the concentration-response testing of these compounds. The freely dissolved aqueous concentrations causing 50% immobilisation (EC-50) were 1.96 mg L(-1) for naphthalene and 0.48 mg L(-1) for phenanthrene. Therefore, passive dosing is a practical and economical means of improving the exposure of HOCs in aquatic toxicity or bioconcentration tests. (c) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)15-24
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydrophobic organic compounds
  • PAHs
  • Toxicity
  • Bioconcentration
  • Daphnia magna
  • Passive dosing
  • Partition controlled delivery
  • Partitioning driven administration


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