, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 63-84
Date: 09 Jun 2013

Biota as toxic metal indicators

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Metal in the environment arises from both natural sources and human activities. Toxic metals in air, soil, and water have become a global problem. They are potential hazards to aquatic, animal, and human life because of their toxicity, bioaccumulative, and non-biodegradable nature. The major impacts of metal pollutants can be stated as ecosystem contamination and health problems of exposed human populations. Those problems have been a cause of increasing public concern throughout the world. Some trace metals are used by living organisms to stabilize protein structures, facilitate electron transfer reactions, and catalyze enzymatic reactions. But even metals that are biologically essential can be harmful to living organisms at high levels of exposure. An increasing concentration of heavy metals in the environment can modify mineral and enzyme functions of human beings. During the last two decades, the interest in using bioindicators as monitoring tools to assess environmental pollution with toxic metals has increased. Bioindicators are flora and fauna members, which are collected and analyzed to measure the levels of metal contaminants. Bioindicators therefore identify health hazards. Various living organisms, such as microbes, fungi, plants, animals, and humans, are used to monitor toxic metals from air, water, sediment, soil, and food chain. Here, we review recent bioindicators, toxicity assessment, and ecological effects.