Overall multi-media persistence as an indicator of potential for population-level intake of environmental contaminants

Publication Type

Journal Article



Although it is intuitively apparent that population-level exposure to contaminants dispersed in the environment must related to the persistence of the contaminant, there has been little effort to formally quantify this link. In this paper we investigate the relationship between overall persistence in a multimedia environment and the population-level exposure as expressed by intake fraction (iF), which is the cumulative fraction of chemical emitted to the environment that is taken up by members of the population. We first confirm that for any given chemical contaminant and emission scenario the definition of iF implies that it is directly proportional to the overall multi-media persistence, POV. We show that the proportionality constant has dimensions of time and represents the characteristic time for population intake (CTI) of the chemical from the environment. We then apply the CalTOX fate and exposure model to explore how POV and CTI combine to determine the magnitude of iF. We find that CTI has a narrow range of possible values relative to POV across multiple chemicals and emissions scenarios. We use data from the Canadian Environmental Protection Act Priority Substance List (PSL1) Assessments to show that exposure assessments based on empirical observation are consistent with interpretations from the model. The characteristic time for intake along different dominant exposure pathways is discussed. Results indicate that POV derived from screening-level assessments of persistence, bioaccumulation potential, and toxicity (PBT) is a useful indicator of the potential for population-level exposure.


Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry



Year of Publication



Research Areas