Environmental toxicity of complex chemical mixtures
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Complex chemical mixtures may be released into the environment from a variety of sources including hazardous waste sites. Components of chemical mixtures and their metabolites may be genotoxic leading to cancer and heritable gene mutations. Chemical analysis alone does not always provide the most accurate information from which to estimate the risk of adverse effects associated with exposure to mixtures. Current methods to estimate the human health risk for complex mixtures assume additive effects of the components. Although it is assumed that this approach is protective of human and ecological health, it is also recognized that chemical mixtures may induce a variety of interactions including potentiation, synergism, and antagonism. A combined testing protocol, using chemical analysis coupled with a battery of in vitro, in vivo, and in situ bioassays, provides the most accurate information from which to estimate risk. Such a combined testing protocol provides information to describe the major organic and inorganic constituents, as well as the pharmacokinetics and potential interactions of chemical mixtures. This research was conducted to investigate the potential genotoxic effects of complex chemical mixtures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated aromatics (PCA) using microbial bioassays (Salmonella/microsome assay and the E. coli prophage induction assay), the 32P-postlabeling assay in mice, and in situ measurements of genotoxicity using flow cytometry. Samples of environmental media and wildlife tissues were collected from four National Priority List Superfund sites within the United States. In general, chemical analysis was not always predictive of mixture toxicity. Although biodegradation reduced the concentration of total and carcinogenic PAHs in soils and groundwater, the genotoxicity of extracts from environmental media did not display a corresponding reduction. Mixtures of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) extracted from sediments were found to inhibit the genotoxicity of PAH mixtures when administered dermally to rodents. This inhibition exhibited a dose-response relationship, with the adduct frequency reduced at increasing doses of sediment extract. Finally, PAH concentrations in environmental media and tissues were found to correlate with DNA damage in wildlife receptors. An integrated approach, combining in vitro and in vivo methods to characterize genotoxicity provides more accurate information from which to estimate uptake and risk associated with exposure to complex mixtures and should be considered in both the human and ecological risk assessment process.
COMPLEX CHEMICAL MIXTURES
Gillespie, Annika Margaret (2006). Environmental toxicity of complex chemical mixtures. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from