We assessed potential toxicity of fungicides to natural bacterial communities from a constructed wetland, located in southern Sweden, and compared the sensitivity of two endpoints indicating bacterial activity, leucine incorporation, and potential denitrification, in detecting toxicity. The effects of eight fungicides (benomyl, carbendazim, carboxin, captan, cycloheximide, fenpropimorph, propiconazole, and thiram), two bactericides (bronopol and chlortetracycline) as controls, and one reference compound (3,5-dichlorophenol), were tested in a water-sediment microcosm set-up. Leucine incorporation was measured in both the water and sediment column, while potential denitrification was measured for the entire microcosm. The bactericides and the reference compound gave sigmoid concentration-response curves for both endpoints in all but one case. The fungicides thiram, captan, and benomyl, and to a lesser extent fenpropimorph and propiconazole had quantifiable toxic effects on leucine incorporation, with EC(50) values ranging from 3 to 70 mg l(-1), while carbendazim, carboxin, and cycloheximide had little effect at the investigated concentrations. Only thiram and captan inhibited potential denitrification; the other fungicides showed no quantifiable effect. A greater toxic effect on leucine incorporation was recorded for bacterial communities associated with the water column, compared to the sediment column, for all tested compounds. Leucine incorporation was the more sensitive method for toxicity assessment of bacterial communities, and also allowed for a rapid and simple way of comparing exposure in the sediment and water column, making it an attractive standard method for community based toxicological assays in aquatic environments.