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The effects of motorway runoff on freshwater ecosystems .3: Toxicant confirmation

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JournalArchives of environmental contamination and toxicology
DatePublished - Jul 1997
Issue number1
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)916
Original languageEnglish


Previous studies have demonstrated that small streams receiving road runoff have reduced water and sediment quality. These changes in quality are associated with alterations in the structure and functioning of stream communities. Laboratory studies have indicated that the community changes are due to sediment-associated contaminants, and toxicant identification evaluations have shown that the major toxicants are contained probably in a fraction of sediment extract that contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The aim of the present study was to determine whether PAHs were indeed the major toxicants in sediment extracts. Toxicity tests were performed with PAH mixtures, the toxic fraction of an extract of runoff-contaminated sediment, and a whole sediment extract. These indicated that three PAHs accounted for the toxicity of a sediment extract: pyrene, fluoranthene, and phenanthrene. The possibility of spatial or temporal variation in major toxicants was also investigated and tests on a number of sediment extracts obtained from a number of sites at different times demonstrated that the three PAHs accounted for 30.8 to 120% of an extract's toxicity. When the PAHs were considered individually, pyrene was shown to account for most of the toxicity (44.9%), followed by fluoranthene (16%) and phenanthrene (3.5%).

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