Investigating the significance of dissolved organic contaminants in aquatic environments: Coupling passive sampling with in vitro bioassays

Emmanuel S. Emelogu (Lead / Corresponding author), Pat Pollard, Craig D. Robinson, Foppe Smedes, Lynda Webster, Ian W. Oliver, Craig McKenzie, T. B. Seiler, Henner Hollert, Colin F. Moffat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated the feasibility of coupling passive sampling and in vitro bioassay techniques for both chemical and ecotoxicological assessment of complex mixtures of organic contaminants in water. Silicone rubber passive sampling devices (SR-PSDs) were deployed for 8-9weeks in four streams and an estuary of an agricultural catchment in North East (NE) Scotland. Extracts from the SR-PSDs were analysed for freely dissolved hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) and screened for wide range of pesticides. The total concentrations of dissolved PAHs (∑PAH40, parent and branched) in the water column of the catchment varied from 38 to 69ngL-1, whilst PCBs (∑PCB32) ranged 0.02-0.06ngL-1. A number and level of pesticides and acid/urea herbicides of varying hydrophobicity (logKOWs ∼2.25 to ∼5.31) were also detected in the SR extracts, indicating their occurrence in the catchment. The acute toxicity and EROD induction potentials of SR extracts from the study sites were evaluated with rainbow trout liver (Oncorhynchus mykiss; RTL-W1) cell line. Acute cytotoxicity was not observed in cells following 48h exposure to the SR extracts using neutral red uptake assay as endpoint. But, on a sublethal level, for every site, statistically significant EROD activity was observed to some degree following 72h exposure to extracts, indicating the presence of compounds with dioxin-like effect that are bioavailable to aquatic organisms in the water bodies of the catchment. Importantly, only a small fraction of the EROD induction could be attributed to the PAHs and PCBs that were determined. This preliminary study demonstrates that the coupling of silicone rubber passive sampling techniques with in vitro bioassays is feasible and offers a cost effective early warning signal on water quality deterioration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-219
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Early online date31 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Hydrophobic organic contaminants
  • Monitoring
  • Passive sampling
  • Silicone rubber
  • Toxic equivalency (TEQ)
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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