Closing the gap between exposure and effects in monitoring studies
Pure and Applied Chemistry
A major challenge to contaminant monitoring programs is the selection of an appropriate suite of measurements for assessing exposure and effects. Early monitoring programs relied solely on residue analysis to detect the organochlorine compounds that were in use at that time. A shift to the use of more transient, less persistent chemicals required that a new set of tools be developed to determine if an organism had been exposed. This led to the development of cellular and biochemical assays that
... hemical assays that could indicate the presence of these types of chemicals in biota and the environment. However, it was recognized that measures of contaminant presence alone were insufficient to assess the health of biota. As a result, considerable research began to be directed toward development of diagnostic tools for measuring chemical effects in fish and wildlife. Today, contaminant monitoring programs follow a paradigm for study design that emphasizes not only the use of measures of exposure, but also measures of effect.Using data from our monitoring and research studies for hormonally active substances, we discuss a variety of metrics of exposure and effects and their application to specific chemicals, and the current information gaps. We conclude that although several bioindicators of exposure and effect have been promoted and used, to date there continues to be a poor association between cause and effect for endocrine active substances. In part, this is due to the limited number of diagnostic tools that are available and to a lack of basic toxicological information concerning toxicokinetics and mechanisms of action of hormonally active chemicals in fish and wildlife species. In the foreseeable future, both tissue and environmental residue data, despite the many limitations, will continue to be an important component of monitoring programs for hormonally active chemicals as we continue to develop and validate more specific bioindicators of exposure and effects.