Metal bioavailability and toxicity to fish in low-alkalinity lakes: A critical review

Environmental Pollution
By:  and 



Fish in low-alkalinity lakes having pH of 6·0–6·5 or less often have higher body or tissue burdens of mercury, cadmium, and lead than do fish in nearby lakes with higher pH. The greater bioaccumulation of these metals in such waters seems to result partly from the greater aqueous abundances of biologically available forms (CH3 Hg+, Cd2+, and Pb2+) at low pH. In addition, the low concentrations of aqueous calcium in low-alkalinity lakes increase the permeability of biological membranes to these metals, which in fish may cause greater uptake from both water and food. Fish exposed to aqueous inorganic aluminum in the laboratory and field accumulate the metal in and on the epithelial cells of the gills; however, there is little accumulation of aluminum in the blood or internal organs. In low-pH water, both sublethal and lethal toxicity of aluminum has been clearly demonstrated in both laboratory and field studies at environmental concentrations. In contrast, recently measured aqueous concentrations of total mercury, methylmercury, cadmium, and lead in low-alkalinity lakes are much lower than the aqueous concentrations known to cause acute or chronic toxicity in fish, although the vast majority of toxicological research has involved waters with much higher ionic strength than that in low-alkalinity lakes. Additional work with fish is needed to better assess (1) the toxicity of aqueous metals in low-alkalinity waters, and (2) the toxicological significance of dietary methylmercury and cadmium.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Metal bioavailability and toxicity to fish in low-alkalinity lakes: A critical review
Series title Environmental Pollution
DOI 10.1016/0269-7491(91)90034-T
Volume 71
Issue 2-4
Year Published 1991
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Toronto, Canada
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Description 62 p.
First page 243
Last page 304
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