Article : A comprehensive study of the toxicity of natural multi-contaminated sediments: New insights brought by the use of a combined approach using the medaka embryo-larval assay and physico-chemical analyses

7 juillet 2017
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Sediment compartment is a long term sink for pollutants and a secondary source of contamination for aquatic species. The abiotic factors controlling the bioavailability and thus the toxicity of complex mixtures of pollutants accumulated in sediments are poorly documented. To highlight the different factors influencing sediment toxicity, we identified and analyzed the physico-chemical properties, micro-pollutant contents, and toxicity level of six contrasted sediments in the Lot-Garonne continuum. Sediment toxicity was evaluated using the recently described Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) embryo-larval assay with direct exposure to whole sediment (MELAc). Multiple toxicity endpoints including embryotoxicity, developmental defects and DNA damage were analyzed in exposed embryos. Chemical analyses revealed significant variations in the nature and contamination profile of sediments, mainly impacted by metallic trace elements and, unexpectedly, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Exposure to sediments induced different toxic impacts on medaka early life stages when compared with the reference site. Principal component analysis showed that the toxic responses following exposure to sediments from the Lot River and its tributary were associated with micro-pollutant contamination: biometric measurements, hatching success, genotoxicity, craniofacial deformities and yolk sac malabsorption were specifically correlated to metallic and organic contaminants. Conversely, the main biological responses following exposure to the Garonne River sediments were more likely related to their physico-chemical properties than to their contamination level. Time to hatch, cardiovascular injuries and spinal deformities were correlated to organic matter content, fine particles and dissolved oxygen levels. These results emphasize the necessity of combining physico-chemical analysis of sediment with toxicity assessment to accurately evaluate the environmental risks associated with sediment contamination.