Bioaccumulation of contaminants in fish

EXS. 1998:86:353-87. doi: 10.1007/978-3-0348-8853-0_12.


The term bioaccumulation is defined as uptake, storage, and accumulation of organic and inorganic contaminants by organisms from their environment. Bioaccumulation therefore results from complex interactions between various routes of uptake, excretion, passive release, and metabolization. For fish, the bioaccumulation process includes two routes of uptake: aqueous uptake of water-borne chemicals, and dietary uptake by ingestion of contaminated food particles. The contribution to bioaccumulation that results from aqueous exposure and is taken up by the gills is called bioconcentration. The contribution to bioaccumulation resulting from dietary exposure via uptake by intestinal mucosa is termed biomagnification. In both cases, important co-determinants for bioaccumulation are the various elimination mechanisms. This chapter presents a short historical survey of the problem of bioaccumulation with particular reference to fish and of the various approaches to study bioaccumulation. This is followed by an overview of our present knowledge about basic physico-chemical determinants that either increase or reduce the bioaccumulation potential of various chemicals, and about the physiological basis of gills, blood circulation and intestines, as far as they are crucial for our understanding of uptake and accumulation. Finally, selected quantitative data and modelings of bioaccumulation in fish will be discussed, with regard to such problems as the relative importance of aqueous and dietary uptake.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Fishes / metabolism*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / pharmacokinetics*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical