Silver (Ag) is discharged in wastewater effluents and is also a component in a proposed secondary water disinfectant. A steady-state model was developed to simulate bioaccumulation in aquatic biota and assess ecological and human health risks. Trophic levels included phytoplankton, invertebrates, brown trout, and common carp. Uptake routes included water, food, or sediment. Based on an extensive review of the literature, distributions were derived for most inputs for use in Monte Carlo simulations. Three scenarios represented ranges of dilution and turbidity. Compared with the limited field data available, median estimates of Ag in carp (0.07-2.1 Iμg/g dry weight) were 0.5 to 9 times measured values, and all measurements were within the predicted interquartile range. Median Ag concentrations in biota were ranked invertebrates > phytoplankton > trout > carp. Biotic concentrations were highest for conditions of low dilution and low turbidity. Critical variables included Ag assimilation eficiency, specific feeding rate, and the phytoplankton bioconcentration factor. Bioaccumulation of Ag seems unlikely to result in txicity to aquatic biota and humans consuming fish. Although the highest predicted Ag concentrations in water (>200 ng/L) may pose chronic risks to early survival and development of salmonids and risks of argyria to subsistence fishers, these results occur under highly conservative conditions.
Additional publication details
A probabilistic model for silver bioaccumulation in aquatic systems and assessment of human health risks