Methods to assess bioavailability of hydrophobic organic contaminants: Principles, operations, and limitations

Xinyi Cui, Philipp Mayer, Jay Gan

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review


Many important environmental contaminants are hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs), which include PCBs, PAHs, PBDEs, DDT and other chlorinated insecticides, among others. Owing to their strong hydrophobicity, HOCs have their final destination in soil or sediment, where their ecotoxicological effects are closely regulated by sorption and thus bioavailability. The last two decades have seen a dramatic increase in research efforts in developing and applying partitioning based methods and biomimetic extractions for measuring HOC bioavailability. However, the many variations of both analytical methods and associated measurement endpoints are often a source of confusion for users. In this review, we distinguish the most commonly used analytical approaches based on their measurement objectives, and illustrate their practical operational steps, strengths and limitations using simple flowcharts. This review may serve as guidance for new users on the selection and use of established methods, and a reference for experienced investigators to identify potential topics for further research. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Pages (from-to)223-234
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioavailability
  • Hydrophobic organic compounds
  • Bioaccessibility
  • Passive sampling
  • SPME

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