, Volume 24, Issue 7–8, pp 1583–1592 | Cite as

Heavy metals in wild marine fish from South China Sea: levels, tissue- and species-specific accumulation and potential risk to humans

  • Jin-Ling Liu
  • Xiang-Rong XuEmail author
  • Zhen-Hua Ding
  • Jia-Xi Peng
  • Ming-Hua Jin
  • You-Shao Wang
  • Yi-Guo Hong
  • Wei-Zhong Yue


Heavy metal pollution in marine fish has become an important worldwide concern, not only because of the threat to fish in general, but also due to human health risks associated with fish consumption. To investigate the occurrence of heavy metals in marine fish species from the South China Sea, 14 fish species were collected along the coastline of Hainan China during the spring of 2012 and examined for species- and tissue-specific accumulation. The median concentrations of Cd, Cr, Cu, Zn, Pb and As in muscle tissue of the examined fish species were not detectable (ND), 2.02, 0.24, 2.64, 0.025, and 1.13 mg kg−1 wet weight, respectively. Levels of Cu, Zn, Cd and Cr were found to be higher in the liver and gills than in muscle, while Pb was preferentially accumulated in the gills. Differing from other heavy metals, As did not exhibit tissue-specific accumulation. Inter-species differences of heavy metal accumulation were attributed to the different habitat and diet characteristics of marine fish. Human dietary exposure assessment suggested that the amounts of both Cr and As in marine wild fish collected from the sites around Hainan, China were not compliant with the safety standard of less than 79.2 g d−1 for wild marine fish set by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. Further research to identify the explicit sources of Cr and As in marine fish from South China Sea should be established.


Heavy metals Accumulation Wild marine fish South China Sea Risk assessment 



This study was supported by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (No. 2012M510201), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41176090; 51378488), and Hundred Talents Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences to Dr. X.R. Xu. We also thank Dr. Chris C. Feng for his help in revising the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

We declare that we have no financial and personal relationships with other people or organizations that can inappropriately influence our work, there is no professional or other personal interest of any nature or kind in any product, service and/or company that could be construed as influencing the position presented in, or the review of, the manuscript entitled, “Heavy metals in wild marine fish from South China Sea: Levels, tissue- and species-specific accumulation and potential risk to humans”.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jin-Ling Liu
    • 1
    • 5
  • Xiang-Rong Xu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zhen-Hua Ding
    • 2
  • Jia-Xi Peng
    • 1
    • 4
  • Ming-Hua Jin
    • 2
  • You-Shao Wang
    • 3
  • Yi-Guo Hong
    • 3
  • Wei-Zhong Yue
    • 3
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tropical Marine Bio-resources and Ecology, South China Sea Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.College of the Environment & EcologyXiamen UniversityXiamenChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of OceanologyCASGuangzhouChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.School of Earth SciencesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina

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