Examining the role of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) in larval shellfish production in seawater contaminated with heavy metals

Aquat Toxicol. 2019 Dec:217:105330. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2019.105330. Epub 2019 Oct 12.


Heavy metal pollution is a concern in many coastal locations where it is frequently deleterious to the survival of young shellfish. Consequently, a great number of commercial shellfish hatcheries around the world rely on the addition of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) to seawater to ensure successful larval production. Despite the importance of this practice to global shellfish production the mode of action of EDTA in larval production remains undetermined. It is assumed EDTA chelates heavy metals in seawater preventing interference in larval development. Larval mussels (Perna canaliculus) raised in seawater with 3 μM EDTA had a 15 fold higher yield than those without EDTA. The concentration and spatial arrangement of heavy metals in larvae as determined by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICPMS) and X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy (XFM) was consistent with reduced bioavailability of several metals, especially copper and zinc. This is the first study to confirm the effectiveness of EDTA for managing metal pollution commonly encountered in coastal shellfish hatcheries.

Keywords: Aquaculture; Bioavailability; Hatchery; Larval development; Metals; Shellfish.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chelating Agents
  • Edetic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Environmental Pollution / analysis
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity*
  • Perna / growth & development*
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Chelating Agents
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Edetic Acid