The Value of Using Multiple Metrics to Evaluate PCB Exposure

Megan C. Archer, Amanda D. Harwood, Samuel A. Nutile, Kara E.Huff Hartz, Marc A. Mills, Jim E. Garvey, Michael J. Lydy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Current methods for evaluating exposure in ecosystems contaminated with hydrophobic organic contaminants typically focus on sediment exposure. However, a comprehensive environmental assessment requires a more holistic approach that not only estimates sediment concentrations, but also accounts for exposure by quantifying other pathways, such as bioavailability, bioaccumulation, trophic transfer potential, and transport of hydrophobic organic contaminants within and outside of the aquatic system. The current study evaluated the ability of multiple metrics to estimate exposure in an aquatic ecosystem. This study utilized a small lake contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to evaluate exposure to multiple trophic levels as well as the transport of these contaminants within and outside of the lake. The PCBs were localized to sediments in one area of the lake, yet this area served as the source of PCBs to aquatic invertebrates, emerging insects, and fish and terrestrial spiders in the riparian ecosystem. The Tenax extractable and biota PCB concentrations indicated tissue concentrations were localized to benthic invertebrates and riparian spiders in a specific cove. Fish data, however, demonstrated that fish throughout the lake had PCB tissue concentrations, leading to wider exposure risk. The inclusion of PCB exposure measures at several trophic levels provided multiple lines of evidence to the scope of exposure through the aquatic and riparian food web, which aids in assessing risk and developing potential future remediation strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-371
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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