Environmental Management

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 331-337

First online:

Assessing potential bioavailability of metals in sediments: A proposed approach

  • Gerald T. AnkleyAffiliated withUS Environmental Protection Agency
  • , Nelson A. ThomasAffiliated withUS Environmental Protection Agency
  • , Dominic M. Di ToroAffiliated withHydroqual, Inc.
  • , David J. HansenAffiliated withUS Environmental Protection Agency
  • , John D. MahonyAffiliated withChemistry Department, Manhattan College
  • , Walter J. BerryAffiliated withSAIC Corporation
  • , Richard C. SwartzAffiliated withUS Environmental Protection Agency, Hatfield Marine Science Center Marine Science Drive
  • , Robert A. HokeAffiliated withSAIC Corporation
  • , A. Wayne GarrisonAffiliated withUS Environmental Protection Agency
    • , Herbert E. AllenAffiliated withDepartment of Civil Engineering, University of Delaware
    • , Christopher S. ZarbaAffiliated withUS Environmental Protection Agency

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Due to anthropogenic inputs, elevated concentrations of metals frequently occur in aquatic sediments. In order to make defensible estimates of the potential risk of metals in sediments and/or develop sediment quality criteria for metals, it is essential to identify that fraction of the total metal in the sediments that is bioavailable. Studies with a variety of benthic invertebrates indicate that interstitial (pore) water concentrations of metals correspond very well with the bioavailability of metals in test sediments. Many factors may influence pore water concentrations of metals; however, in anaerobic sediments a key phase controlling partitioning of several cationic metals (cadmium, nickel, lead, zinc, copper) into pore water is acid volatile sulfide (AVS). In this paper, we present an overview of the technical basis for predicting bioavailability of cationic metals to benthic organisms based on pore water metal concentrations and metal-AVS relationships. Included are discussions of the advantages and limitations of metal bioavailability predictions based on these parameters, relative both to site-specific assessments and the development of sediment quality criteria.

Key words

Sediment Metal Bioavailability Toxicity Sediment quality criteria