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Are Lead Exposures a Risk in European Fresh Waters? A Regulatory Assessment Accounting for Bioavailability

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An indicative compliance assessment of the Europe-wide bioavailable lead Environmental Quality Standard of 1.2 µg L−1 (EQS) was undertaken against regulatory freshwater monitoring data from six European member states and FOREGS database. Bio-met, a user-friendly tool based upon Biotic Ligand Models (BLMs) was used to account for bioavailability, along with the current European Water Framework Directive lead dissolved organic carbon correction approach. The outputs from both approaches were compared to the BLM. Of the 9054 freshwater samples assessed only 0.6% exceeded the EQS of 1.2 µg L−1 after accounting for bioavailability. The data showed that ambient background concentrations of lead across Europe are unlikely to influence general compliance with the EQS, although there may be isolated local issues. The waters showing the greatest sensitivity to potential lead exposures are characterized by relatively low DOC (< 0.5 mg L−1), regardless of the pH and calcium concentrations.

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The authors would like to thank the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) for providing the data from Scottish waters used in this assessment.

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Correspondence to Adam Peters.

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Peters, A., Wilson, I., Merrington, G. et al. Are Lead Exposures a Risk in European Fresh Waters? A Regulatory Assessment Accounting for Bioavailability. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 100, 127–133 (2018).

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