The objective of this work is to present a critical review of the application of the tissue residue approach (TRA) in ecological risk and/or impact assessment (ERA) of chemical stressors and environmental criteria development. A secondary goal is to develop a framework for integrating the TRA into ecological assessments along with traditional, exposure concentration-based assessment approaches. Although widely recognized for its toxicological appeal, the utility of the TRA in specific applications will depend on numerous factors, such as chemical properties, exposure characteristics, assessment type, availability of tissue residue-response data, and ability to quantify chemical exposure. Therefore, the decision to use the TRA should include an evaluation of the relative strengths, limitations, and uncertainties among exposure and residue-based methods for characterizing toxicological effects. Furthermore, rather than supplanting exposure concentration-based toxicity assessments, the TRA can be highly effective for evaluating and reducing uncertainty when used in a complementary manner (e.g., when evaluating multiple lines of evidence in field studies). To address limitations with the available tissue residue-response data, approaches for extrapolating residue-based toxicity data across species, tissues, and exposure durations are discussed. Some of these approaches rely on predicted residue-response relationships or toxicological models that have an implicit residue-response basis (e.g., biotic ligand model). Because risk to an organism is a function of both its exposure potential and inherent sensitivity (i.e., on a residue basis), bioaccumulation models will be required not only for translating tissue residue criteria into corresponding water and sediment criteria, but also for defining the most vulnerable species in an assemblage (i.e., highly exposed and highly sensitive species). Application of the TRA in ecological assessments and criteria development are summarized for bioaccumulative organic chemicals, TBT, and in situ bioassays using bivalve molluscs.
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