Species sensitivity distributions for use in environmental protection, assessment, and management of aquatic ecosystems for 12 386 chemicals

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2019 Apr;38(4):905-917. doi: 10.1002/etc.4373.


The present study considers the collection and use of ecotoxicity data for risk assessment with species sensitivity distributions (SSDs) of chemical pollution in surface water, which are used to quantify the likelihood that critical effect levels are exceeded. This fits the European Water Framework Directive, which suggests using models to assess the likelihood that chemicals affect water quality for management prioritization. We derived SSDs based on chronic and acute ecotoxicity test data for 12 386 compounds. The log-normal SSDs are characterized by the median and the standard deviation of log-transformed ecotoxicity data and by a quality score. A case study illustrates the utility of SSDs for water quality assessment and management prioritization. We quantified the chronic and acute mixture toxic pressure of mixture exposures for >22 000 water bodies in Europe for 1760 chemicals for which we had both exposure and hazard data. The results show the likelihood of mixture exposures exceeding a negligible effect level and increasing species loss. The SSDs in the present study represent a versatile and comprehensive approach to prevent, assess, and manage chemical pollution problems. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;38:905-917. © 2019 SETAC.

Keywords: Acute median effective concentration; Aquatic ecotoxicity data; Chronic no-observed-effect concentration; Environmental risk assessment; Life cycle assessment; Species sensitivity distribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aquatic Organisms / classification
  • Aquatic Organisms / drug effects*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecosystem
  • Ecotoxicology / methods*
  • Europe
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Species Specificity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • Water Quality


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical