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Sci Total Environ. 2001 Nov 12;279(1-3):87-115.

Predicting metal toxicity revisited: general properties vs. specific effects.

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  • 1Delft University of Technology, Interfaculty Reactor Institute, Department of Radiochemistry, The Netherlands.


The present paper addresses the prediction of metal toxicity by evaluation of the relationships between general metal properties and toxic effects. For this, metal toxicity data were taken from 30 literature data sets, which varied largely in exposure times, organisms, effects and effect levels. General metal properties were selected on basis of literature reviewing of basic metal property classifications: used were the electrochemical potential deltaE0; the ionization potential IP; the ratio between atomic radius and atomic weight AR/AW; and the electronegativity Xm. The results suggest that toxicity prediction may be performed on basis of these fixed metal properties without any adoption to specific organisms, without any division of metals into classes, or grouping of toxicity tests. The results further indicate that metal properties contribute to the observed effects in relative importances which depend on specific effects, effect levels, exposure times, selected organisms and ambient conditions. The discussion strongly suggests that prediction should be by interpolation rather than by extrapolation of calibrated toxicity data: the concept here is that unknown metal toxicities are predicted on basis of observed metal toxicities in calibration experiments. Considering the used metal properties, the calibration covers the largest number of metals by the simultanuous use of Ge(IV), Cs(I), Li(I), Mn(VII), Sc and Bi in toxicity studies. Based on the data from the 30 studies considered, metal toxicities could be ordered in a relative way. This ordering indicates that the natural abundance of metals or metal ions in the Earth's crust may be regarded as a general comparative measure of the metal toxicities. The problems encountered in toxicity interpretation and ordering of toxicities indicate that control of the solution acidity, the metal's solubility and the metal's oxidation state may be key problems to overcome in future metal ion toxicity studies.

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