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Toxicity Databases

Ecotoxicity testing protocols 

Ecotoxicity results

Contaminant mobility

Soil property data


Toxicity databases

RA methodologies

Document resources


Problem Identification

Receptor Characterisation

Exposure Assessment

Toxicity Assessment

Risk Characterisation

Note: The majority of available toxicity and exposure databases are specific to US species, and may have limited applicability for New Zealand species.

Some toxicity values from the literature are provided here.


The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is an on-line database of toxicity information that is updated monthly. IRIS provides quantitative human health carcinogenic/hazard data, Ambient Water Quality Criteria, and Maximum Contaminant Levels. This database is the USEPA's preferred source of toxicity data, and the database is regularly reviewed. It is a valuable data source for experienced site assessors.

For further information refer to: http://www.epa.gov/iris/index.htm


The ECOTOX Database integrates three existing USEPA datafiles, AQUIRE, Phytotox, and Terretox. It includes toxicity data derived predominantly from peer-reviewed literature for aquatic organisms, terrestrial plants and wildlife species, respectively.

Each record contains information about the chemical, organism, exposure condition and observed effect under which the toxicity test was conducted. AQUIRE (Aquatic Toxicity Information Retrieval) is a summary of available aquatic toxicity data. Currently, AQUIRE includes more than 140,000 toxic effect records for 5,900 chemicals and 2,900 freshwater and marine organisms. It includes lethal, sublethal, and residue effects data for a single-chemical exposures conducted in a field or laboratory setting but does not include in-vitro exposures, mixture and effluent exposures, or sediment exposures that do not report water concentrations.

Phytotox is a database of toxic effects records for terrestrial vascular wild plant species (native or introduced) or agricultural species. Phytotox includes lethal and sublethal effect data but does not include results from residue studies. Currently it contains more than 48,000 effect records for 900 species and 1,500 chemicals, extracted from 2,600 publications.

Terretox (Terrestrial Toxicity Database) includes toxicity data for wildlife species. Lethal, sublethal and residues effects data through publication year 1992 are included in Terretox. Terretox currently includes more than 38,000 data records for 240 species and 1,056 chemicals, abstracted from 529 publications.

These are comprehensive toxicological databases, that are accessible on-line and are suitable for experienced site investigators familiar with using toxicological data.

For further information refer to: http://www.epa.gov/ecotox/

ORNL Benchmarks

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) contains several databases of ecotoxicological information covering:

  • aquatic biota
  • terrestrial wildlife
  • terrestrial plants
  • sediment infauna
  • soil invertebrates and microbial processes.

The benchmark criteria have been developed for a wide range of contaminants including metals, and organochlorine and organic compounds, and concentrate specifically on ecotoxicological crteria.

For further information refer to: http://www.hsrd.ornl.gov/ecorisk/


Ecological risk assessment is the process by which exposure and effects data are systematically evaluated to assess the likelihood that adverse ecological effects may occur as a result of exposure to stressors. In California, technical data needs for ecological risk assessment are diverse and include both chemical- and species-specific exposure and effects information. These data needs are often met by data retrieval from the scientific literature or by collection of new data. In order to facilitate access to existing information that may be utilized in ecological risk assessments conducted or reviewed by member boards, departments, and offices within the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA), the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in collaboration with the University of California at Davis, Information Center for the Environment, has developed Cal/Ecotox. Cal/Ecotox is a relational database that contains California wildlife exposure factor and toxicity information.

The database collates species-specific information for 28 exposure factors (e.g., body weights, ingestion rates, seasonal activities and population dynamics) commonly used to estimate exposure to contaminants. The exposure factors in Cal/Ecotox have been patterned after the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Wildlife Exposure Factor Handbook (USEPA, 1993) but augment USEPA's efforts by including information for 62 California mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species. In addition to exposure factors, toxicological data for population-level to individual-level effects have been included for these species, when available.

Cal/Ecotox is a unique database in that it combines exposure and effects information for a wide variety of California terrestrial species. It will continue to expand as data for additional terrestrial, and eventually aquatic, species are added and as data for the current species are updated. By providing convenient access to this scientific information, it is hoped that regulators, the regulated community and the public may benefit due to the improved quality of ecological risk assessments that are produced using Cal/Ecotox.

Further information regarding Cal/Ecotox and the database is located at: http://endeavor.des.ucdavis.edu/calecotox/

Ecotox Thresholds Software   

The USEPA has developed software that calculates Ecotox Thresholds (ETs) for selected chemicals and can print out a table of ETs and their sources. The Superfund program has initiated a project to develop media-specific benchmark values for those chemicals commonly found in surface water, sediment and soil samples at sites (values for soil are still being developed).

The ET values are defined as media-specific contaminant concentrations above which there is sufficient concern regarding adverse ecological effects to warrant further site investigation. ETs are designed to provide Superfund site managers with a tool to efficiently identify contaminants that may pose a threat to ecological receptors and focus further site activities on those contaminants and the media in which they are found. They may be suitable where NZ specific guideline data are unavailable, but their use should be restricted to those investigators who are sufficiently experienced to assess the applicability of the data to the receptor of concern.

ETs are intended for use for screening purposes only; they are not regulatory criteria, site-specific cleanup standards, or remediation goals. For those chemicals with the potential to bioaccumulate to toxic levels in upper trophic wildlife (e.g., methyl mercury, PCBs, DDT, dioxins, and lead), these benchmarks may not be low enough at some sites.

Ecotox Thresholds (ETs) software can be downloaded from: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/resources/ecotox/index.htm

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