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Environmental fate & pathways

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The bioaccumulation potential of Aluminium has been reviewed by Environment Canada (2010):

“All biota will naturally accumulate metals to some degree without deleterious effect and as some metals are essential elements, bioaccumulation does not necessarily indicate the potential for adverse effects (McGreer et al. 2003). While metal bioaccumulation is homeostatically regulated for metals essential to biological function (Adams et al. 2000), non-essential metals may also be regulated to some degree as these homeostatic mechanisms are not metal-specific (ICMM 2007). Thus, interpretation of the toxicological significance of bioaccumulation data for metals such as aluminum is complex.”

Bioaccumulation of Aluminium in algae and aquatic invertebrates depends on pH: according to Environment Canada (2010) “the comparison of assays performed at the same concentration of aluminum but at different pH values showed that aluminum accumulation was suppressed at low pH (Parent and Campbell 1994).” “Aquatic invertebrates can also accumulate substantial quantities of aluminum, yet there is evidence that most of the metal is adsorbed to external surfaces and is not internalized (Havas 1985; Frick and Hermann 1990). Using the results of Havas (1985), the bioconcentration factor (BCF) for Daphnia magna varied from 10,000 at pH 6.5 down to 0 at pH 4.5” (Environment Canada, 2010).

“BCFs for fish were calculated to range from 400 to 1,365 based on results presented in Roy (1999a). Numerous field and laboratory studies have demonstrated that fish accumulate aluminum in and on the gill. It has been suggested that the rate of transfer of aluminum into the body of fish is either slow or negligible under natural environmental conditions (Spry and Wiener 1991). The initial uptake of aluminum by fish essentially takes place not on the gill surface but mainly on the gill mucous layer (Wilkinson and Campbell 1993). Fish may rapidly eliminate mucus and the bound aluminum following the exposure episode. For example, Wilkinson and Campbell (1993) and Lacroix et al. (1993) found that depuration of aluminum

from the gills of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) was extremely rapid once fish were transferred into clean water. The authors suggested that the rapid loss is due to expulsion of aluminum bound to mucus” (Environment Canada, 2010).


The bioaccumulation in terrestrial plant has also been addressed by Envirinment Canada (2010):

“For both hardwood and coniferous species, the calculated BCF ranged from 5 to 1,300 for foliage and from 20 to 79,600 for roots in studies done with aluminum solutions. For those conducted with soil, BCFs were lower for both foliage (0.03–1.3) and roots (325–3,526). BCFs calculated for grain and forage crops ranged from 4 to 1,260 in foliage and from 200 to 6,000 in roots for experiments done with solutions. For soil experiments, the foliar BCF varied from 0.07 to 0.7.”



Environment Canada (2010)Environment Canada Priority Substance List Assessment Report, Follow-up to the State of Science Report, 2000 Aluminium Salts (Final Content), available via internet: and