Heavy metal contamination in the greater Puget Sound from various anthropogenic point sources; concentrations in the sediment in comparison to marine biota
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Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements that have a high atomic weight and are usually found in trace levels within the environment, but can become toxic to marine organisms at elevated concentrations. They can enter the marine environment from a variety of anthropogenic point sources, including from anti-fouling paint from fish farms as well as from mining activities. In this study, heavy metals in the surface sediments and within the marine biota were analyzed at four different stations within the greater Puget Sound area: at one fish farm site and at three mining sites. There was elevated heavy metal contamination present in the surface sediments at all four of the stations, and when these heavy metals were detectable within the surface sediments, they were found within both benthic and pelagic organisms at enrichments approximately one order of magnitude higher than in the sediments. It is now known that heavy metals are present within the local region at highly enriched concentrations and have made their way into the biota; more work is needed to begin to understand the implications of this enrichment for the greater Puget Sound ecosystem.