Are we going about chemical risk assessment for the aquatic environment the wrong way?
The goal of protecting the aquatic environment through testing thousands of chemicals against hundreds of aquatic species with thousands of endpoints while also considering mixtures is impossible given the present resources. Much of the impetus for studies on micropollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, came from the topic of endocrine disruption in wild fish. But despite concern over reductions in fish fertility, there is little evidence that fish populations are in peril. Indeed, fish biologists suggest that many cyprinid populations have been recovering for the past 30 to 40 yr. The central assumption, key to current risk assessment, that effects observed in the laboratory or predicted by models are readily transferrable to the population level, is therefore questionable. The neglect in monitoring wildlife populations is the key weakness in environmental protection strategies. If we do not know whether aquatic wildlife species are declining or increasing, how valuable are our other ecotoxicological activities? Environ Toxicol Chem 2016;35:1609–1616. © 2016 SETAC