Martin Hilovsky, Toxicity Test Expert

Martin Hilovsky has a BS in biology and an MS in aquatic ecology, both from Kent State University. He is founder and president of EnviroScience, where he co-manages the lake management division and manages toxicity identification/reduction evaluation (TIE/TRE) studies for the company.

Prior to forming EnviroScience, Martin spent nine years after graduate school as an environmental scientist with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. He worked in the Industrial Wastewater division where his responsibilities included writing NPDES discharge permits, reviewing detail plans, performing compliance inspections and initiating enforcement action when necessary. "As it turned out," he says, "this regulatory experience was very helpful in the growth and development of EnviroScience as regulations and the regulatory agencies increasingly focus on biology to assess the long-term health of our nation's waterways."

How did you initially get into toxicity testing?
EnviroScience started as a toxicity lab about 20years ago when aquatic toxicity testing began to show up as a routine testing requirement in industrial and municipal NPDES permits. I recognized that relatively few labs were offering this type of testing and that the demand was likely to grow in the future.

What types of toxicity tests does your company perform? Why are such tests important?
We offer a full range of aquatic toxicity tests including:
Chronic Renewal Tests:
  • 21-day D. magna (water flea) survival & reproduction
  • 7-day C. dubia (water flea) survival & reproduction
  • 7-day P. promelas (fathead minnow) growth & survival
Acute Definitive Renewal and Non-Renewal:
  • 48-hr. D. magna, or C. dubia
  • 96-hr. P.promelas
Acute Stormwater & Permit Renewal Screening
  • 24-hr. & 48-hr. D. magna, C. dubia, and P. promelas
  • 96-hr. Selenastrum capricornutum (green algae)
Toxicity Identification / Reduction TIE/TRE Studies
  • Chronic & acute options
  • Phase I characterization
  • Phase II identification
  • Phase III confirmation
Water Effect Ratio (WER)
We also conduct a full range of marine toxicity tests and sediment toxicity evaluations.
These tests are important because they address several significant limitations associated with analytical testing. These limitations include:
  • Not always being able to test for a substance or even knowing what to test for- a variety of chemicals can have adverse impacts on aquatic organisms at levels too low to measure. Additionally, the investigator may not know the appropriate test methods or even know what class of chemicals to test for;
  • Chemical testing cannot account for negative synergistic effects of multiple substances in a given water sample.
What are some prevalent environmental toxins that consumers should be aware of, and where are they generally located?
A group of toxins that has been getting significant attention lately are the endocrine disruptors. This is a broad class of chemicals that act like hormones in our endocrine system that can disrupt physiological processes in animals. These chemicals include pesticides, compounds used in common plastics, pharmaceuticals, and other industrial by-products and pollutants. Examples of well-known endocrine disruptors are DDT, PCBs and phthalates. A large numbers of studies in animals have shown that these chemicals can have a broad range of negative effects on animals including reduced fertility, skewed sex ratios, birth defects, early puberty, impaired immune function and various cancers. These studies give rise to concerns that low-level exposure may cause similar effects in humans. Although food is a major source of pollutant exposure, these toxins are also commonly found in very low levels in our drinking water owing to their ability to often pass through existing wastewater treatment systems.

What are the most important pieces of equipment and supplies that toxicity testing companies must have?
For aquatic toxicity testing, reliable and healthy test organism cultures are the key to producing quality data. We maintain in-house cultures of all common test organisms and occasionally supplement our cultures with organisms from EPA research labs to reduce the negative impacts associated with inbreeding.

What degree of education and training is necessary to perform toxicity testing and who provides it?
A minimum of a BS degree in biology or a related science is required and this is supplemented with at least six months of in-house training.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for people who wish to hire a professional to conduct a toxicity test?
Look for a laboratory where toxicity testing is a primary business area- not just a sideline as is the case with many analytical labs. The lab and its personnel should have no less than five years of experience with bioassay testing. Verify that the lab has satisfactory DMRQA (discharge monitoring report quality assurance) results. Get copies of the most recent DMRQA results and any other proficiency test results.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for people who wish to get a job toxicity testing?
Ensure that you are comfortable in a laboratory environment and are very detail-oriented. If you are still in school, do everything possible to get an internship or part-time position to get some laboratory experience.

For more information on toxicity testing, please read our Toxicity Test Guide.
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