Metals in the environment

"The state of the science on metal mixtures in the environment"

SETAC Australasia conference 2017

6 years ago

With the next SETAC Australasia conference now less than a month away we are looking forward to an exciting meeting and new developments in metal toxicity modelling and environmental quality standard setting.

Three of the keynote speakers Stephen Lofts, Charlotte Nys and Scott Smith have been closely involved in advances in understanding and modelling the fate, behaviour and toxicity of both metals and metal mixtures so it is certain to be an interesting meeting for anybody with an interest in those areas.

There will be sessions on marine ecotoxicology, metal ecotoxicology, multiple stressors, fluorinated substances, analytical methods, and human health effects of environmental contaminants. has been launched

7 years ago

The metals mixtures website ( is now live, and has recently been featured in the SETAC Globe update. The website has been developed as a collaborative project between wca, IZA, NiPERA and ICA.

The site is an accessible tool to help disseminate cutting-edge information on the bioavailability of metals and metal mixtures in the environment, including research published in the ET&C Special Section: Metal Mixture Modeling Evaluation. It was developed in response to both the increasing attention on chemical mixtures from the global regulatory community and a growing body of knowledge in the scientific community.

It is designed for stakeholders of all levels of background and experience with a variety of resources ranging from animated videos on key concepts to fact sheets and scientific publications on metals bioavailability and mixtures. Metals in the Environment provides an overview of the latest peer-reviewed science on these subjects, developed and funded cooperatively by academic institutions, government and industry.  Fact sheets have also been prepared covering topics including “A Brief Starter on Metal Bioavailability and Mixtures,” “Metal Bioavailability,” “Metal Mixture Toxicity,” “Metal Mixture Modeling” and “The Future of Metal Mixture Regulations.” The links section is a portal to relevant publications, papers, models, tools and videos on metals in the environment.    

For further information about the project, or to provide contributions to the site, please contact or visit

Recently published paper by WCA

7 years ago

WCA have recently published a paper comparing some of the implementation approaches which are available for bioavailability based water quality standards for metals. There has been some confusion within the technical and regulatory community because whilst there are several user-friendly bioavailability tools available for users to try, they often give different results for the same problems. The Biotic Ligand Models (BLMs) which the user-friendly bioavailability tools are based on are very complicated to use and have not always been widely available. Consequently, it has generally not been possible to compare the predictions made by the user-friendly bioavailability tools against predictions made by the BLMs. This has led to confusion about which of the user-friendly bioavailability tools provides the most reliable predictions for the range of water chemistries which are likely to be experienced within any particular river basin.

The practical implementation of metal bioavailability within national water quality monitoring networks is continuously developing as greater experience is gained within those countries who have been the first to apply bioavailability based standards. The Dutch user-friendly bioavailability tool is already in the process of being updated to include the same refinements that are used by the nickel BLM.

One issue which is clear however, is that regardless of which of the user-friendly bioavailability tools is used, is that it is much more ecologically relevant to consider bioavailability than to only take account of hardness in assessing metal toxicity. In field situations there is often no overall relationship between hardness and the sensitivity of a particular water to metals, meaning that hardness based standards can divert scarce resources towards situations which might see no real ecological benefit. The implementation of bioavailability based water quality standards for metals throughout Europe in the future should address this problem and help to identify the most important priorities for regulatory action.

The full paper is available in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Volume 35, Issue 10 and the full text can also be accessed here.

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Many organizations have contributed to our understanding of metals mixtures in the environment. More in depth information in the form of reports, manuscripts, videos, etc. can be found here

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