ABSTRACT: It is often presumed that all chemicals in soil are available to microorganisms, plant roots, and soil fauna via dermal exposure. Subsequent bioaccumulation through the food chain may then result in exposure to higher organisms. Using the presumption of total availability, national governments reduce environmental threshold levels of regulated chemicals by increasing guideline safety margins. However, evidence shows that chemical residues in the soil environment are not always bioavailable. Hence, actual chemical exposure levels of biota are much less than concentrations present in soil would suggest. Because "bioavailability" conveys meaning that combines implications of chemical sol persistency, efficacy, and toxicity, insights on the magnitude of a chemicals soil bioavailability is valuable. however, soil bioavailability of chemicals is a complex topic, and is affected by chemical properties, soil properties, species exposed, climate, and interaction processes. In this review, the state-of-art scientific basis for bioavailability is addressed. Key points covered include: definition, factors affecting bioavailability, equations governing key transport and distributive kinetics, and primary methods for estimating bioavailability. Primary transport mechanisms in living organisms, critical to an understanding of bioavailability, also presage the review. Transport of lipophilic chemicals occurs mainly by passive diffusion for all microorganisms, plants, and soil fauna. Therefore, the distribution of a chemical between organisms and soil (bioavailable proportion) follows partition equilibrium theory. However, a chemical's bioavailability does not always follow partition equilibrium theory because of other interactions with soil, such as soil sorption, hysteretic desorption, effects of surfactants in pore water, formation of "bound residue", etc. Bioassays for estimating chemical bioavailability have been introduced with several targeted endpoints: microbial degradation, uptake by higher plants and soil fauna, and toxicity to organisms. However, there bioassays are often time consuming and laborious. Thus, mild extraction methods have been employed to estimate bioavailability of chemicals. Mild methods include sequential extraction using alcohols, hexane/water, supercritical fluids (carbon dioxide), aqueous hydroxypropyl-beta-cyclodextrin extraction, polymeric TENAX beads extraction, and poly(dimethylsiloxane)-coated solid-phase microextraction. It should be noted that mild extraction methods may predict bioavailability at the moment when measurements are carried out, but not the changes in bioavailability that may occur over time. Simulation models are needed to estimate better bioavailability as a function of exposure time. In the past, models have progressed significantly by addressing each group of organisms separately: microbial degradation, plant uptake via evapotranspiration processes, and uptake of soil fauna in their habitat. This approach has been used primarily because of wide differences in the physiology and behaviors of such disparate organisms. However, improvement of models is badly needed, Particularly to describe uptake processes by plant and animals that impinge on bioavailability. Although models are required to describe all important factors that may affect chemical bioavailability to individual organisms over time (e.g., sorption/desorption to soil/sediment, volatilization, dissolution, aging, "bound residue" formation, biodegradation, etc.), these models should be simplified, when possible, to limit the number of parameters to the practical minimum. Although significant scientific progress has been made in understanding the complexities in specific methodologies dedicated to determining bioavailability, no method has yet emerged to characterized bioavailability across a wide range of chemicals, organisms, and soils/sediments. The primary aim in studying bioavailability is to define options for addressing bioremediation or environmental toxicity (risk assessment), and that is unlikely to change. Because of its importance in estimating research is needed to more comprehensively address the key environmental issue of "bioavailability of chemicals in soil/sediment."
Reviews of environmental contamination and toxicology 01/2010; 203:1-86. · 3.45 Impact Factor