In this review, a wide array of bioaccumulation markers and biomarkers, used to demonstrate exposure to and effects of environmental contaminants, has been discussed in relation to their feasibility in environmental risk assessment (ERA). Fish bioaccumulation markers may be applied in order to elucidate the aquatic behavior of environmental contaminants, as bioconcentrators to identify certain substances with low water levels and to assess exposure of aquatic organisms. Since it is virtually impossible to predict the fate of xenobiotic substances with simple partitioning models, the complexity of bioaccumulation should be considered, including toxicokinetics, metabolism, biota-sediment accumulation factors (BSAFs), organ-specific bioaccumulation and bound residues. Since it remains hard to accurately predict bioaccumulation in fish, even with highly sophisticated models, analyses of tissue levels are required. The most promising fish bioaccumulation markers are body burdens of persistent organic pollutants, like PCBs and DDTs. Since PCDD and PCDF levels in fish tissues are very low as compared with the sediment levels, their value as bioaccumulation markers remains questionable. Easily biodegradable compounds, such as PAHs and chlorinated phenols, do not tend to accumulate in fish tissues in quantities that reflect the exposure. Semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs) have been successfully used to mimic bioaccumulation of hydrophobic organic substances in aquatic organisms. In order to assess exposure to or effects of environmental pollutants on aquatic ecosystems, the following suite of fish biomarkers may be examined: biotransformation enzymes (phase I and II), oxidative stress parameters, biotransformation products, stress proteins, metallothioneins (MTs), MXR proteins, hematological parameters, immunological parameters, reproductive and endocrine parameters, genotoxic parameters, neuromuscular parameters, physiological, histological and morphological parameters. All fish biomarkers are evaluated for their potential use in ERA programs, based upon six criteria that have been proposed in the present paper. This evaluation demonstrates that phase I enzymes (e.g. hepatic EROD and CYP1A), biotransformation products (e.g. biliary PAH metabolites), reproductive parameters (e.g. plasma VTG) and genotoxic parameters (e.g. hepatic DNA adducts) are currently the most valuable fish biomarkers for ERA. The use of biomonitoring methods in the control strategies for chemical pollution has several advantages over chemical monitoring. Many of the biological measurements form the only way of integrating effects on a large number of individual and interactive processes in aquatic organisms. Moreover, biological and biochemical effects may link the bioavailability of the compounds of interest with their concentration at target organs and intrinsic toxicity. The limitations of biomonitoring, such as confounding factors that are not related to pollution, should be carefully considered when interpreting biomarker data. Based upon this overview there is little doubt that measurements of bioaccumulation and biomarker responses in fish from contaminated sites offer great promises for providing information that can contribute to environmental monitoring programs designed for various aspects of ERA.
- Journal Article