Biomarkers, Bioindicators, and Ecological Risk Assessment—A Brief Review and Evaluation
E2 Consulting Engineers, Inc., Maryville, Tennessee, USA
Cellular and subcellular measures of exposure (biomarkers) and effects (bioindicators) continue to be developed. This development is justified in part by the potential application of these technologies in supporting ecological risk assessment (ERA). However, application of biomarkers in assessing ecological risk remains infrequent and of questionable utility. The following discussion examines the potential for increasing the utility of biomarkers and bioindicators in ERA. Recent studies suggest that biomarkers can contribute to most aspects of a commonly used framework for ERA. Methods that address gene expression (i.e., proteomics) appear particularly promising in terms of economy in application and significance of results. The primary challenges in using biomarkers/bioindicators to assess risk include the difficulties in (1) developing stressor-specific, quantitative dose-response functions and (2) projecting higher-order ecological effects from cellular or subcellular bioindicators.
STEVEN M. BARTELL
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