Measured Pore-Water Concentrations Make Equilibrium Partitioning Work: A Data Analysis

Rik Kraai, Philipp Mayer, Frans J.M. Busser, Maarten van Het Bolscher, Willem Seinen, Johannes Tolls, Angelique C. Belfroid

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


There is an increasing body of evidence that the bioaccumulation of sediment-associated hydrophobic organic compounds (HOCs) is strongly influenced by sequestration. At present, it is not known how equilibrium partitioning theory (EqP), the most commonly employed approach for describing sediment bioaccumulation can be applied to sediments with sequestered contaminants. In this paper, we present freely dissolved pore-water concentrations of HOCs. These data were employed to interpret sediment bioaccumulation and sequestration data in order to arrive at a process based evaluation of EqP. The data analysis suggests that sediment bioaccumulation of compounds up to log K-OW 7.5 in Tubificidae can be described as bioconcentration from pore-water. In addition, the pore-water concentrations of HOCs (4.5 < log K-OW < 7.5) are established by equilibrium partitioning between the rapidly desorbing HOCs fraction in the sediment and the pore-water. Taken together, these findings indicate that EqP is a conceptually correct representation of sediment bioaccumulation, provided that sequestration is accounted for. This implies that the risk assessment of sediment-associated HOCs can be significantly simplified: With a method at hand for measuring freely dissolved pore-water concentrations of HOCs, it appears that HOCs' body residues in sediment dwelling organisms can be estimated on the basis of concentrations in pore-water and bioconcentration factors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)268-274
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


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