A three-stage study has been carried out with rainbow trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss) to develop analytical approaches which can provide a fingerprint for tainting by oil sands chemicals from process-affected waters and natural sources. The objective was to find a simpler alternative to sensory evaluation. In the first stage, a set of seven test compounds was added to fish tissue which was analysed by headspace and solvent (dichloromethane, DCM) extraction followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). In the second stage, fingerlings (5–20 g) were exposed for 96 hours to the test compound mixture at 1.0 and 0.5 times the estimated tainting threshold concentrations. In the final stage, fingerlings were exposed for 96 hours to an oil sands process water at 5, 10, 20 and 50% concentrations in clean water. None of the test compounds was identified in DCM extracts of tissue from exposed fish. Two long-chain aldehydes, hexadecanal and 9-octadecenal, were tentatively identified in these extracts by matching of mass spectra with library spectra.

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