Modelling ecological and human exposure to POPs in Venice lagoon – Part II: Quantitative uncertainty and sensitivity analysis in coupled exposure models

The study is focused on applying uncertainty and sensitivity analysis to support the application and evaluation of large exposure models where a significant number of parameters and complex exposure scenarios might be involved. The recently developed MERLIN-Expo exposure modelling tool was applied to probabilistically assess the ecological and human exposure to PCB 126 and 2,3,7,8-TCDD in the Venice lagoon (Italy). The ‘Phytoplankton’, ‘Aquatic Invertebrate’, ‘Fish’, ‘Human intake’ and PBPK models available in MERLIN-Expo library were integrated to create a specific food web to dynamically simulate bioaccumulation in various aquatic species and in the human body over individual lifetimes from 1932 until 1998. MERLIN-Expo is a high tier exposure modelling tool allowing propagation of uncertainty on the model predictions through Monte Carlo simulation. Uncertainty in model output can be further apportioned between parameters by applying built-in sensitivity analysis tools. In this study, uncertainty has been extensively addressed in the distribution functions to describe the data input and the effect on model results by applying sensitivity analysis techniques (screening Morris method, regression analysis, and variance-based method EFAST). In the exposure scenario developed for the Lagoon of Venice, the concentrations of 2,3,7,8-TCDD and PCB 126 in human blood turned out to be mainly influenced by a combination of parameters (half-lives of the chemicals, body weight variability, lipid fraction, food assimilation efficiency), physiological processes (uptake/elimination rates), environmental exposure concentrations (sediment, water, food) and eating behaviours (amount of food eaten). In conclusion, this case study demonstrated feasibility of MERLIN-Expo to be successfully employed in integrated, high tier exposure assessment.

Authors: Radomyski A, Giubilato E, Ciffroy P, Critto A, Brochot C, Marcomini A. ;Full Source: Science of the Total Environment. 2016 Jul 15. pii: S0048-9697(16)31502-9. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.07.057. [Epub ahead of print] ;