Pollutants in stream Toxicants are chemicals or a mixture of chemicals that present a risk of death, disease, injury or birth defects in exposed organism at certain doses. Common toxicants in waterways include oil, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, industrial compounds and plastics. These toxicants range widely in their sources and effects. Common toxicants in waterways include oil, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, industrial compounds and plastics. These toxicants range widely in their sources and effects.

View a conceptual model of potential causes of a change to toxicants and the condition responses observed as a result of this change.

Potential indicators

There are a number of causes and symptoms related to this stressor. The following indicators are recommended for the stressor ‘Toxicants’:

Pressure indicators

Indicators of toxicant sources:

Indicators of direct pressure:

  • Amount of oil spilled and number of oil slicks/spills reported

Vulnerability indicators

Condition indicators

Physical-chemical condition indicators:

Biological condition indicators:

  • Number of mass mortality events caused by toxicants
Possible causes Possible symptoms
The actions/events/situations that might induce this stress: The actions/events/situations that might arise from a change to the stressor:

Background science

Other information on toxicants

Toxicant databases


The ECOTOX database has chemical toxicity information for aquatic and terrestrial life, and can be used to examine the impacts of chemicals on the environment.

The Extension Toxicology Network (EXTOXNET). Various types of pesticide toxicology and environmental chemistry information are available from this site. These include: discussions of toxicological issues of concern (TICs); toxicology newsletters; other resources for toxicology information; toxicology fact sheets; Pesticide Information Profiles (PIPs); and Toxicology Information Briefs (TIBs).

Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is a database of human health effects that may result from exposure to various substances found in the environment.


Chemical Monitoring DatabaseDesigned to help you find relevant information about chemicals as quickly and easily as possible. Information has been arranged into topics to help focus your search; alternatively you can use the search facilities.

National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) The National Pollutant Inventory website contains data on the types and amounts of 36 substances (90 in the future) that are emitted into the environment, mainly from urban industrial sources.

National Toxics Network (NTN) is a community based network working for pollution reduction, protection of environmental health and environmental justice for all.

Data from monitoring


Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMStat) is designed to share surface and ground water quality data sets collected from the GEMS/Water Global Network, including over 1,400 stations, two million records, and over 100 parameters.


Australian Natural Resources Atlas 262 sites, (163 DNR & 99 EPA) were reported covering 34 basins. Click on the basin name in the table to view a water quality report for that basin.

Major Oil Spills in Australia. A number of significant oil spills have occurred in Australia, and these are listed (with a brief summary) on this site.

The National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) website contains data on the types and amounts of 36 substances (90 in the future) that are emitted into the environment, mainly from urban industrial sources.

Interactive maps. These online interactive maps on the webpage allow you to view maps of coastal areas around Australia, using the MODIS Satellite Oceanic Classes (Level 3) data.

New South Wales

Waterinfo The NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources has over 200 datasets of water quality results from discrete samples. This page provides a list of stations with links to discrete water quality data available for each station. Data is updated weekdays overnight


Department of Natural Resources and Mines. Data on the ambient quantity and quality of the State’s freshwater resources in streams and aquifers is available to the public in digital format under a range of fee and access arrangements.

Watershed. This web site provides access to gauging station information, streamflow data summaries and chemical analyses of water samples from the surface water data archive.


Pesticide monitoring. The list of pesticides monitored includes those most commonly used in agriculture and forestry in Tasmania. Other pesticides have been chosen due to their high toxicity, or their potential mobility in the environment. A complete list of results from the program so far are available in PDF format.

State of the Derwent estuary report. The report, prepared by the Derwent Estuary Program, reviews pollution sources, loads and environmental quality data from 1997 to 2003.

Survey of PCBs in Tasmanian Water Catchments. Preliminary report on a survey of trout, eels and sediments for PCBs, DDT, Heptacholor and heavy metals in Tasmanian water catchments 1999-2000.

Water Information Resources & Electronic Data (WIRED) is a joint State and Federally funded system providing on-line access to a range of water information products including water management policies, current river levels and flows, catchment reports, and data summaries for individual sampling/flow sites.


Murray-Darling Basin Commission’s Water Quality Monitoring Program. Information about this program can be found on this site. It has water quality data from the Murray Darling Basin for the years 1994-1995.

Water Measurement Information System. This site combines data from a number of community and scientific based monitoring programs into one easily accessible resource.



BurrliOZThe BurrliOZ software is used to calculate the toxicant trigger values by estimating the concentrations of chemicals such that a given percentage of species will survive. Users may use this software to recalculate trigger values using new data which has been appropriately screened using the screening system (CSIRO).


Automated Data Inquiry for Oil Spills (ADIOS) Weathering ModelThe Automated Data Inquiry for Oil Spills (ADIOS) software is used to assess the changes that spilled oil undergoes during weathering. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

US EPA Water Quality ModelsThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides links to a number of water quality models for simulating the movement of precipitation and pollutants from the ground surface through pipe and channel networks, storage treatment units and finally to receiving waters. Freeware (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

USGS Hydrologic and Geochemical ModelsUSGS models are widely used to predict responses of hydrologic systems to changing stresses, such as increases in precipitation or ground-water pumping rates, as well as to predict the fate and movement of solutes and contaminants in water. Freeware (U.S. Geological Survey)

Risk assessment modelsList and description of models used around the world in contaminant toxicity assessment. This page also links to reviews of 9 widely used models. (Landcare Research, New Zealand)

Useful links

A list of modelling centres

US EPA — Exposure Assessment Models CEAM provides proven predictive exposure assessment techniques for aquatic, terrestrial, and multimedia pathways for organic chemicals and metals (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

US EPA — National Centre for Computational Toxicology At the National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT), researchers apply mathematical and computational tools to advance the science needed to protect human health and natural ecosystems from pollutants (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)