Direct toxicity assessment - Methods, evaluation, interpretation

K. Gruiz, Ildikó Fekete-Kertész, Zsuzsanna Kunglné-Nagy, Csilla Hajdu, Viktória Feigl, Emese Vaszita, Mónika Molnár

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Direct toxicity assessment (DTA) results provide the scale of the actual adverse effect of contaminated environmental samples. DTA results are used in environmental risk management of contaminated water, soil and waste, without explicitly translating the results into chemical concentration. The end points are the same as in environmental toxicology in general, i.e. inhibition rate, decrease in the growth rate or in yield and the 'no effect' or the 'lowest effect' measurement points of the sample dilution-response curve. The measurement unit cannot be a concentration, since the contaminants and their content in the sample is unknown. Thus toxicity is expressed as the sample proportion causing a certain scale of inhibition or no inhibition. Another option for characterizing the scale of toxicity of an environmental sample is equivalencing. Toxicity equivalencing represents an interpretation tool which enables toxicity of unknown mixtures of chemicals be converted into the concentration of an equivalently toxic reference substance. Toxicity equivalencing, (i.e. expressing the toxicity of unknown contaminants as the concentration of the reference) makes DTA results better understandable for non-ecotoxicologists and other professionals educated and thinking based on the chemical model.This paper describes and discusses the role, the principles, the methodology and the interpretation of direct toxicity assessment (DTA) with the aim to contribute to the understanding of the necessity to integrate DTA results into environmental management of contaminated soil and water. The paper also introduces the benefits of the toxicity equivalency method.The use of DTA is illustrated through two case studies. The first case study focuses on DTA of treated wastewater with the aim to characterize the treatment efficacy of a biological wastewater treatment plant by frequent bioassaying. The second case study applied DTA to investigate the cover layers of two bauxite residue (red mud) reservoirs. Based on the DTA results the necessary toxicity attenuation rate of the cover layers was estimated.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Sep 12 2015


  • Chemical risk model
  • Direct toxicity assessment
  • Environmental hazard
  • Environmental management
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering

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  • Cite this

    Gruiz, K., Fekete-Kertész, I., Kunglné-Nagy, Z., Hajdu, C., Feigl, V., Vaszita, E., & Molnár, M. (Accepted/In press). Direct toxicity assessment - Methods, evaluation, interpretation. Science of the Total Environment.