A laboratory bioassay is described for determining the bioavailability of contaminants from freshwater sediments. The bioassay consists of 10-d exposures to whole sediments under flow-through conditions. After testing five species, the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) and the earthworm (Lubricus terrestris) were recommended for use in the test. When the availability of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Hg and Zn from Great Lakes sediments was examined in laboratory exposures, only the PCBs were accumulated. A field validation study demonstrated that the magnitude of accumulation in laboratory exposures was similar to that in organisms caged in the field. A protocol is recommended for using the test as a standardized bioaccumulation bioassay.