Comparative toxicity of inorganic contaminants released by placer mining to early life stages of salmonids

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
By:  and 



The acute toxicities of four trace inorganics associated with placer mining were determined, individually and in environmentally relevant mixtures, to early life stages of Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) from Alaska and Montana, coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kitsutch) from Alaska and Washington, and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from Montana. The descending rank order of toxicity to all species and life stages was copper > zinc > lead > arsenic. For each of the three species, sensitivity to the inorganics was greater in juveniles than in alvenins or in swim-up fry. Arctic grayling from Alaska were more sensitive than the other species tested, including Arctic grayling from Montana. For Arctic grayling, sensitivity to all four inorganics was significantly greater in swim-up fry from Alaska than in alevins from Montana, and sensitivity to arsenic and copper was significantly greater in juveniles from Alaska than in juveniles from Montana. In tests with environmentally relevant mixtures (based on ratios of concentrations measured in streams with placer mining) of these four inorganics, copper was identified as the major toxic component because it accounted for ⩾97% of the summed toxic units of the mixture, and an equitoxic mixture of these inorganics showed less-than-additive toxicity. Total and total recoverable copper concentrations reported in five Alaskan streams with active placer mines were higher than the acutely toxic concentrations, either individually or in mixtures, that the authors found to be acutely toxic to Arctic grayling and coho salmon from Alaska. However, caution should be used when comparing our results obtained in “clear” water to field situations, because speciation and toxicity of these inorganics may be altered in the presence of sediments suspended by placer mining activities.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Comparative toxicity of inorganic contaminants released by placer mining to early life stages of salmonids
Series title Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
DOI 10.1016/0147-6513(90)90010-3
Volume 20
Issue 3
Year Published 1990
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center
Description 18 p.
First page 325
Last page 342