Measuring adverse effects of contaminated soil using interactive and dynamic test methods
Katalin Gruiz, Mónika Molnár and Viktória Feigl

The complex soil matrix, the contaminant (or the mixture of contaminants) and the soil microflora with its continuously changing diversity, interact dynamically with each other, resulting in a flexible system with high adaptive potential and rapid evolution.

The interactions between soil phases, soil biota and the components of the contaminant give rise to a large variety of combinations. An equilibrium state never exists in the soil, and after a contamination event the dynamic system changes to reach a new equilibrium that differs from the previous one. This continuously changing environment is responsible for the actual effects of a pollutant and for the hazards posed to a site.

The results of chemical analyses may or may not correlate with the actual adverse effects and hazards caused by the contaminant mixture in a certain soil and at a particular site. To obtain a realistic view of the risks, an integrated approach should be used, involving biological and ecotoxicological testing, which complements the chemical analysis.

The most important biological and toxicological endpoints are: land-use-specific ecotoxicity; mutagenicity; teratogenicity; food-chain effects; site-specific biodegradation; bioaccumulation; and partition of the contaminant between the soil phases. To measure the site-specific biological and toxicological characteristics, special tools are required, such as interactive soil tests, which integrate the effects of the soil matrix on the contaminants and the effects of test organisms on the contaminated soil. These two effects may counteract each other.

Key words: adverse effects, bioavailability, direct-contact tests, ecotoxicity, microcosm tests, soil matrix effect, soil toxicity testing

Land Contamination & Reclamation, 17 (3-4), 443-459 (2009)

DOI 10.2462/09670513.952

© EPP Publications Ltd 2009

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