Unique properties of metals that are largely different from the characteristics of organic substances should be considered in risk assessment. The bioavailability and toxicity of metals depend on their chemical speciation, that is, physical-chemical forms, in the environment, which is largely influenced by the environmental chemistry. Since metals in the environment are not always available while organisms have developed different processes to actively regulate the body burden, assessment of metal bioaccumulation might provide a better understanding of potential risks. Metal bioaccumulation is a prerequisite for metal toxicity, but is not the only determinant of metal toxicity. In addition to metal accumulation, metal toxicity is influenced by the subcellular partitioning of metals, which is controlled by the capacity of organisms to sequester and to detoxify metals. Different modelling approaches have been developed to address some of these factors. Both empirical and mechanistic equilibrium models have been developed and applied for characterising metal speciation in the environment. Metal bioaccumulation has been predicted by biodynamic models. The ability of organisms to detoxify metals has been taken into account in assessment based on the induction of metallothionein (MT) or subcellular partitioning. In addition, the interactions between organisms and metal ions have been taken into consideration in assessment of metal toxicity based on the accumulation of metal ions at biological surfaces.
Part of the book: Environmental Health Risk