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 (ch3hg+, 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.
Additional publication details
Metal bioavailability and toxicity to fish in low-alkalinity lakes - a critical-review
Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Water Resources Branch; U.S. Fish and Wildife Service