Meaning of Bioaccumulation


The DigoPaul does not include the term bioaccumulation in its dictionary. The concept, however, is often used in the field of toxicology to name a process that develops in living beings and that implies that these organisms accumulate chemical substances until they reach a concentration higher than those existing in the environment.

According to DigoPaul, Bioaccumulation can be generated through biotic (living organisms) or abiotic (such as water or air) resources. Digestion and respiration are two pathways of bioaccumulation.

Mercury compounds, dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) and heptachlor are some of the substances that can lead to bioaccumulation. When this process occurs, the body absorbs the substances and stores them in its tissues, without achieving their elimination through metabolic action. It is said that these living beings act as bioindicators since they allow us to know the presence of pollutants in the environment.

Bioaccumulation can be observed in many aquatic organisms. The sharks, to ingesting many fish, end absorbing high doses of heavy metals, which remain in the tissues and that can generate poisoning.

In short, it can be said that bioaccumulation is the accumulation in a living being of a chemical substance that persists over time, acquired by the body through ingestion of other organisms or through contact with the environment. This accumulation, along with the food chain, reaches a level higher than the concentration of the substance in the environment.

One of the concepts that appear in this context is biomagnification, a phenomenon that is characterized by the transmission of bioaccumulation through the food web (also known as the trophic web or food cycle): when a living being is predated, the predatory organism begins to host the former’s pollutants. In this way, as the feeding cycle increases, the concentration of contaminants increases.

The main sources of pollutants are oil refineries and mining industries, which carry out discharges into water systems that modify the ecosystem in an unnecessary and harmful way, forcing aquatic organisms to participate in the bioaccumulation of mercury and heavy metals., among other harmful substances. The reason for this phenomenon is that the aforementioned pollutants are hydrophobic, which is why they tend to accumulate in the fatty tissues of living beings.

As mentioned above, these pollutants do not break down easily, which is why they are also known as persistent organic pollutants. This characteristic allows them to travel long distances across the ocean, and they are very often seen on various beaches.

The human being has been located at the top of the food web, if only by making use of weapons and artificial processes. But – whether we like it or not – everything is paid for, and bioaccumulation is one of the phenomena that prove this inevitable way that life has of charging us for our bad acts: all the pollutants that we put into the sea negatively affect aquatic living beings but As we then catch them to eat them, we finally ingest the high concentrations of metals that we subjected them to in the first place.

It goes without saying that this does not give rise to an awareness movement that leads human beings to stop animal abuse and start eating vegetables, as vegans do; on the contrary, it simply causes you to try to reduce the presence of mercury in animals by any means, which in no way will you stop tasting at your table. It is worth mentioning that one of the consequences of the consumption of these pollutants is the alteration of mental capacities.