Toxicity testing: ecological relevance and relative efficacy and costs of toxicity tests in the South African context
The Direct Estimation of Ecological Effect Potential (DEEEP) is a suite of toxicological methods that was compiled to facilitate management of effluent discharges. DEEEP used a range of tests to assess different endpoints and test taxa from differing trophic levels. It was used at pilot scale but never adopted in South Africa formally. The use of toxicological testing in managing effluent discharge has been somewhat ad-hoc since. This study examined a range of tests for undertaking toxicological assessments of effluent from the perspectives of ecological realism, test tractability, and cost of testing. The assays assessed include some from DEEEP, some using South African test taxa, and some using commercial toxicity test kits. Results indicate that, in terms of returned endpoints, no clear difference between tests using immobilized and cultured or wild-collected test taxa was present. Culture maintenance was found to be a significant contributor to test costs where cultured test taxa were used (although culture costs are implicit in test kit costs too). Costing analysis looked at scenarios where equipment could be shared and reused, and how these contribute to laboratory costs. The research leads on to suggestions for testing implementation in laboratories while maximizing ecological realism and minimizing costs.
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