Bioavailability Assessment of Metals in Freshwater Environments: A Historical Review

William Adams, Ronny Blust, Robert Dwyer, David Mount, Eirik Nordheim, Patricio H. Rodriguez, Doug Spry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many metals (aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, copper, nickel, lead, zinc) are widely studied environmental contaminants because of their ubiquity, potential toxicity to aquatic life, and tendency for toxicity to vary widely as a function of water chemistry. The interactions between metal and water chemistry influence metal “bioavailability,” an index of the rate and extent to which the metal reaches the site of toxic action. The implications of metal bioavailability for ecological risk assessment are large, with as much as a 100-fold variability across a range of water chemistries in surface waters. Beginning as early as the 1930s, considerable research effort was expended toward documenting and understanding metal bioavailability as a function of total and dissolved metal, water hardness, natural organic matter, pH, and other water characteristics. The understanding of these factors and improvements in both analytical and computational chemistry led to the development of modeling approaches intended to describe and predict the relationship between water chemistry and metal toxicity, including the free ion activity model, the gill surface interaction model, the biotic ligand model, and additional derivatives and regression models that arose from similar knowledge. The arc of these scientific advances can also be traced through the evolution of the US Environmental Protection Agency's ambient water quality criteria over the last 50 yr, from guidance in the “Green Book” (1968) to metal-specific criteria produced in the last decade. Through time, water quality criteria in many jurisdictions have incorporated increasingly sophisticated means of addressing metal bioavailability. The present review discusses the history of scientific understanding of metal bioavailability and the development and application of models to incorporate this knowledge into regulatory practice. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;39:48–59.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-59
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the financial support of the SETAC technical workshop, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Metals Environmental Research Associations, Dow Chemical Company, Newmont Mining Company, Rio Tinto, Umicore, and Windward Environmental. We also thank the SETAC staff for their support in organizing the workshop. W.J. Berry provided helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the financial support of the SETAC technical workshop, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Metals Environmental Research Associations, Dow Chemical Company, Newmont Mining Company, Rio Tinto, Umicore, and Windward Environmental. We also thank the SETAC staff for their support in organizing the workshop. W.J. Berry provided helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 SETAC

Keywords

  • Bioavailability
  • Metal
  • Water quality models
  • Gills/chemistry
  • Congresses as Topic
  • History, 21st Century
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical/history
  • History, 20th Century
  • Biological Availability
  • Metals/history
  • Water Quality
  • Fresh Water/chemistry
  • Animals
  • Models, Biological
  • Environmental Monitoring/history
  • Aquatic Organisms/drug effects
  • Ligands

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Review
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article

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