Validating chemical methods to predict bioavailable fractions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by comparison with accumulation bioassays is problematic. Concentrations accumulated in soil organisms not only depend on the bioavailable fraction but also on contaminant properties. A historically contaminated soil was freshly spiked with deuterated PAHs (dPAHs). dPAHs have a similar fate to their respective undeuterated analogues, so chemical methods that give good indications of bioavailability should extract the fresh more readily available dPAHs and historic more recalcitrant PAHs in similar proportions to those in which they are accumulated in the tissues of test organisms. Cyclodextrin and butanol extractions predicted the bioavailable fraction for earthworms (Eisenia fetida) and plants (Lolium multiflorum) better than the exhaustive extraction. The PAHs accumulated by earthworms had a larger dPAH:PAH ratio than that predicted by chemical methods. The isotope ratio method described here provides an effective way of evaluating other chemical methods to predict bioavailability. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.