Relationship between the Bioconcentration Factor (BCF), the Bioaccumulation Factor (BAF), and the Trophic Magnification Factor (TMF)

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A degree of consensus exists among bioaccumulation scientists on the use of Trophic Magnification Factors (TMFs), which are calculated from patterns of observed tissue contaminant concentrations across a food web, as “conclusive” evidence of the bioaccumulative nature of chemicals in the environment. However, most regulatory criteria to determine whether a substance bioaccumulates rely on Bioconcentration Factors (BCFs), which are measured in single-species laboratory tests. BCFs do not account for chemical biomagnification via trophic transfer, nor do they reflect biodilution. I present the results from laboratory and field studies aimed at testing the hypothesis whether the BCF, or its field-based counterpart, the Bioaccumulation Factor (BAF) are adequate predictors of the TMF. I conclude that the BCF can be a useful predictor of the TMF for chemicals with certain characteristics (i.e., fat soluble substances), but that there are two major types of errors where the BCF does not provide accurate information about the bioaccumulative nature of chemicals in the environment.
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