The influence of potentially confounding factors has been identified as a concern for interpreting sea urchin porewater toxicity test data. The results from >40 sediment-quality assessment surveys using early-life stages of the sea urchin Arbacia punctulata were compiled and examined to determine acceptable ranges of natural variables such as pH, ammonia, and dissolved organic carbon on the fertilization and embryological development endpoints. In addition, laboratory experiments were also conducted with A. punctulata and compared with information from the literature. Pore water with pH as low as 6.9 is an unlikely contributor to toxicity for the fertilization and embryological development tests with A. punctulata. Other species of sea urchin have narrower pH tolerance ranges. Ammonia is rarely a contributing factor in pore water toxicity tests using the fertilization endpoint, but the embryological development endpoint may be influenced by ammonia concentrations commonly found in porewater samples. Therefore, ammonia needs to be considered when interpreting results for the embryological development test. Humic acid does not affect sea urchin fertilization at saturation concentrations, but it could have an effect on the embryological development endpoint at near-saturation concentrations. There was no correlation between sediment total organic carbon concentrations and porewater dissolved organic carbon concentrations. Because of the potential for many varying substances to activate parthenogenesis in sea urchin eggs, it is recommended that a no-sperm control be included with every fertilization test treatment. ?? 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.