Heavy Metals in Sediments and Fish in the Caribbean Coast of Colombia: Assessing the Environmental Risk

  • Roberto Fernandez-MaestreEmail author
  • Boris Johnson-Restrepo
  • Jesus Olivero-Verbel
Research paper


Heavy metals have accumulated in fish and marine sediments, especially near large cities or ports. To monitor heavy metal contamination along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, we analyzed sediments and fish by atomic absorption spectrometry to establish a baseline. Fish species were Brown chub (Kyphosus Sp.), Almaco jack (Seriola rivoliana) Grey snapper (Lutjanus cf. griseus), Mullet (Mugil incilis), and catfish (Cathorops mapale, Bagre marinus). Samples were lyophilized and microwave digested. Metal concentrations in fish dorsal muscle (dry weight) were ND-5.3 (Cd), ND-500 (Ni), 10–110 (Pb) and 330–3900 μg/kg (Zn) and in sediments 0.01–0.42 (Cd), 8.4–25 (Ni), 0.4–7.0 (Pb) and 9.3–199 (Zn) mg/kg (Zn > Ni > Pb > Cd). Metal concentrations were low compared with those reported in other regions and the maximum set by international monitoring organizations and coincided with the degree of industrialization and frequency of navigation activities. Relatively high metal concentrations were found in the main waterway of Colombia, the Magdalena River, which has become the sewage of the country’s 80% population. Although the contamination risk by fish consumption from the Colombian Caribbean Sea was low in the species studied, the cumulative risk produced by various pollutants from fish, other foods, air and water might exceed acceptable levels of exposure to hazardous chemicals.


Cadmium Fish Sediment Heavy metals Caribbean Sea Colombia 



We thank the Universidad de Cartagena for funding, Dr. Gabriel Navas for the classification and diet of fish, students Freddy Vergara, Sofia Pareja, Karen Mejia, and Dr. Jorge Ropero, PhD, and Gamaliel Mejia, MSc, for sampling, data collection, and analysis and processing of samples.

Supplementary material

41742_2018_91_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.1 mb)
ESM_1: Parameters of the analysis by atomic absorption, limits of detection and quantification in fish, reproducibility of fish muscle analysis and repeatability, average limits of detection and quantification for fish and sediment analysis, regression coefficient, characteristic concentration and regression equations of calibration curves, absorbances, parameters of the furnace temperature programs, size, weight, and classification of fish, and average per area, detectability and quantifiability in fish and sediment by station, photos of fish collected and graphic comparison of metal concentrations and BSAF. Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2162 kb)


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© University of Tehran 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Programa de Quimica, Campus de San PabloUniversidad de CartagenaCartagenaColombia
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias Farmaceuticas, Campus de ZaragocillaUniversidad de CartagenaCartagenaColombia

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