Bioavailability of metals in contaminated sediments

M. H. Paller, A. S. Knox

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Bioavailability controls the transfer of metals from sediments to ecological receptors and humans. It can rarely be predicted from total metal concentrations because it is affected by metal geochemistry in sediments as well as the biochemistry, physiology, and behavior of benthic organisms. There is no single approach for including bioavailability in risk assessments because of variability in site specific conditions and the difficulty of validating methods. Acid-volatile sulfide and simultaneously extracted metals are useful in predicting bioavailability in anoxic sediments containing sulfides that react to form insoluble metal complexes. This method can be improved by adjusting for organic carbon and other ligands that also bind free metals. Site-specific desorption Kd values calculated by sequential extraction methods can be useful in predicting bioavailable metal fractions in oxic and anoxic sediments. A modified desorption distribution coefficient (Kdg) can be calculated by extraction with the digestive gut fluids of sediment feeding organisms to account for the effects of ingestion on metal release from sediments. Recently developed in situ measurement technologies can accumulate dissolved metals in a controlled fashion that may correspond with bioavailable metal fractions in sediment. Successful evaluation of bioavailability requires the selection of methods suitable for the organisms and sediment environments under consideration. A weight-of-evidence approach that incorporates multiple lines of evidence can help address uncertainties and increase the likelihood of incorporating bioavailability into remedial decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number02001
JournalE3S Web of Conferences
StatePublished - Apr 23 2013
Event16th International Conference on Heavy Metals in the Environment, ICHMET 2012 - Rome, Italy
Duration: Sep 23 2013Sep 27 2013


  • Benthos
  • Bioavailability
  • Geochemistry
  • Metals
  • Risk assessment
  • Sediments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Energy(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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