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Environmental fate & pathways

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Bioaccumulation and secondary poisoning: the assessment of the bioaccumulation and secondary poisoning potential of nickel matte is not relevant. Accumulation data (BCF and BAF values) are available for relevant metal constituents of this UVCB. Metals like Cu are essential and well regulated in all living organisms and therefore the bioaccumulation criterion is not applicable. While some metals do not magnify in aquatic and terrestrial systems, for other metals secondary poisoning is to be considered relevant based on their known bioaccumulation potential.

According to the CLP Guidance for complex substances (section III 3.2) it is not recommended to estimate an average or weighted BCF value but identify one or more constituents for further consideration. Therefore, secondary poisoning of some constituents contained in the UVCB was further taken into account in the environmental exposure assessment.

The studies on aquatic bioaccumulation are summarised in the following table:

Studies on aquatic bioaccumulation on UVCB





microphytes and algae (designated as algae), annelids, arthropods (other than insects), insects, mollusks, salmons, centrarchids, cyprinids, sticklebacks, killifish, and other fish species


Total uptake duration: > 14 d

Literature review of existing bioaccumulation and bioconcentration data. Exposure (exposure duration was at least 28 d for fish and 14 d for invertebrates and plants or shorter periods if equilibrium had been demonstrated) and whole-body metal levels measured by accepted analytical

techniques and an assessment of exposure in the context of guidelines associated with standard BCF test methodologies.

See summary of results below


1 (reliable without restriction)

supporting study

Test material (common name): zinc, copper, nickel, cadmium, lead, silver, mercury 

McGeer JC, Brix KV, Skeaff JM, DeForest DK, Brigham SI, Adams WJ, Green A (2003)


Results: The accumulation of Zn, Cd, Cu, Pb, Ni, and Ag in aquatic biota were, in general, remarkably consistent, particularly for Zn, where total body/tissue concentration varied little over a wide range of exposure concentrations, exposure conditions, and species. However, mean BCF values for the six metals were characterized by high variability, and there was an inverse relationship between BCF and exposure concentration. BCF values for individual metal components are reported inTable69.  

Bioaccumulation is a characteristic of the metals examined, but the BCF parameter does not characterize this bioaccumulation nor is it related to the potential for toxic impacts. This conclusion has a theoretical, chemical, physiological, and pragmatic basis. The BCF model was designed, developed, and adapted to describe neutral and lipid-soluble organic substances of anthropogenic origin, and its application to metals for the purposes of hazard identification is not supported by the scientific data.

This is not to say that bioaccumulation of metals is unimportant. Understanding and predicting bioaccumulation of metals is one of the key requirements in understanding their fate and toxicity in aquatic environments and for environmental protection measures. However, the BCF criterion does not reflect the current understanding of metal bioaccumulation and cannot predict it.