Passive sampling methods for contaminated sediments: State of the science for metals

Willie J.G.M. Peijnenburg, Peter R. Teasdale, Danny Reible, Julie Mondon, William W. Bennett, Peter G.C. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


“Dissolved” concentrations of contaminants in sediment porewater (Cfree) provide a more relevant exposure metric for risk assessment than do total concentrations. Passive sampling methods (PSMs) for estimating Cfree offer the potential for cost-efficient and accurate in situ characterization of Cfree for inorganic sediment contaminants. In contrast to the PSMs validated and applied for organic contaminants, the various passive sampling devices developed for metals, metalloids, and some nonmetals (collectively termed “metals”) have been exploited to a limited extent, despite recognized advantages that include low detection limits, detection of time‐averaged trends, high spatial resolution, information about dissolved metal speciation, and the ability to capture episodic events and cyclic changes that may be missed by occasional grab sampling. We summarize the PSM approaches for assessing metal toxicity to, and bioaccumulation by, sediment‐dwelling biota, including the recognized advantages and limitations of each approach, the need for standardization, and further work needed to facilitate broader acceptance and application of PSM‐derived information by decision makers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-196
Number of pages18
JournalIntegrated environmental assessment and management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Bioaccumulation
  • Contaminated sediment
  • Metals
  • Passive sampling
  • Toxicity


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