Author(s): Babich H, Stotzky G
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Abstract Microorganisms are sensitive to heavy metal pollution as are other components of the biota. However, most studies on the interactions between microbes and heavy metals have been conducted in synthetic media or in altered (e.g., sterilized) environmental samples and usually have used only single species. Few studies have evaluated the effects of heavy metals on the activities of natural heterogeneous microbial populations, both autotrophic and heterotrophic, in terrestrial and aquatic environments. These latter studies have shown that heavy metals inhibit primary productivity, nitrogen fixation, the mineralization of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus, litter decomposition, and enzyme synthesis and activity in soils, sediments, and surface waters. The potential adverse effects of heavy metals on such microbe-mediated ecologic processes need to be incorporated into the methodologies used by regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to prepare environmental risk assessments which, in turn, are used to formulate environmental criteria, such as the Water Quality Criteria, and to evaluate the safety to the environment of exposure to "new chemical substances," as mandated by the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. To provide appropriate data that can be assimilated into regulatory policy, it is essential that microbial ecotoxicity tests be standardized, are neither costly nor difficult to train personnel to conduct, and produce data that can be quantitated.
This article was published in Environ Res
and referenced in Industrial Engineering & Management