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Diss Factsheets

Environmental fate & pathways

Bioaccumulation: aquatic / sediment

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Description of key information

The available evidence shows the absence of aluminium biomagnification across  trophic levels both in aquatic and terrestrial food chains. The existing information suggests not only that aluminium does not biomagnify, but rather that it tends to exhibit biodilution at higher trophic levels in the food chain. More detailed information can be found in the attached document (White paper on waiving for secondary poisoning for Al & Fe compounds final report 02-02-2010. pdf).

Key value for chemical safety assessment

Additional information

Bioconcentration factors (BCF) and/or bioaccumulation factors (BAF) are typically calculated in order to estimate bioaccumulation and biomagnification. However, it has recently been demonstrated that unlike many organic substances, the BCF/BAF is not independent of exposure concentration for many metals (Brix and Deforest, 2000 and Mc Geer et al., 2003). Rather it is inversely related (i. e., decreasing BCF/BAFs with increasing exposure concentration) to exposure concentration. Metal concentrations in tissue based on a range of exposure concentrations may be quite similar but the BCFs will be quite variable reflecting an inverse relationship (i. e., higher BCFs at lower exposure concentrations and lower BCFs at higher exposure concentrations) between metal concentrations and the corresponding BCF (Brix et al, 2001). From the above it is clear that any conclusion based on the application of classical concepts (e. g., use of bioconcentration factors; BCF -biomagnification factors; BMF) to metals as they are applied to organic substances should be treated with caution. As a result, use of a simple ratio Cbiota/Cwateror Cbiota/Csediments as an overall approach for estimating bioconcentration factors for aluminium body burdens is not appropriate.


Brix KV, DK DeForest. 2000. Critical review of the use of bioconcentration factors for hazard classification of metals and metal compounds. OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Aquatic Hazards Extended Workshop Meeting, May 15, Paris, France.

Brix, K. V., DeForest, D. K. and Adams, W. J. (2001), Assessing acute and chronic copper risks to freshwater aquatic life using species sensitivity distributions for different taxonomic groups. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 20: 1846–1856.

Herrmann and Frick. 1995. Do Stream Invertebrates Aluminium at low pH conditions?Water, Air and Soil Pollution 85: 407-412.

McGeer et al. 2003. Inverse relationship between bioconcentration factor and exposure concentration for metals; implications for hazard assessment of metals in the aquatic environment. Env. Tox. And Chem. Vol 22, No 5.