A simple and versatile methodology for high throughput toxicological assessment of chemical and environmental samples is presented. It uses panels of test organisms ranging from prokaryotic (E coli, V. fischeri) and eukaryotic (Jurkat) cells to invertebrate (Artemia salina) and vertebrate (Danio rerio) organisms, to analyze alterations in their oxygen consumption by optical oxygen respirometry. All the assays are carried out in a convenient microtiter plate format using commercial reagents (phosphorescent oxygen probe, microplates) and detection on a standard fluorescent plate reader. Simple experimental set-up and mix-and-measure procedure allow parallel assessment of up to 96 samples (or assay points) in 2 h, easy generation of dose- and time-dependent responses, and EC50 values. The methodology was demonstrated with several different classes of chemicals including heavy metal ions, PAHs, pesticides, their mixtures, and also validated with complex environmental samples such as wastewater from a wastewater treatment plant. It has been shown to provide high sensitivity, sample throughput and information content, flexibility and general robustness. It allows ranking and profiling of samples, compares favorably with alternative methods such as MicroTox and mortality tests with animal models, and is well suited for large-scale monitoring programs such as CWA and WFD. (C) 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 24: 116-127,2009..