This Bioaccumulation Section was edited for scientific content by:
Danielle M. Crosier and Daniel P. Molloy
Division of Research & Collections
New York State Museum
Field Research Laboratory
Cambridge, New York 12816
Data from laboratory studies indicate that the zebra mussel can effectively filter water and trap contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, metals, and hydrocarbons associated with oil pollution - polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Because zebra mussels are widespread and generally remain at the same location for months to years and do accumulate concentrations of many contaminants, they have been proposed as freshwater environmental biomonitors, especially for large rivers or for analyses over time at single locations near contaminant sources.
Bioaccumulation is simply the accumulation of contaminants by aquatic organisms from sources such as water, food, and in the case of the zebra mussel, suspended sediment particles. For a review of aquatic bioaccumulation see Fisher (1995). Studies of zebra mussel bioaccumulation in North America have demonstrated detectable, moderate levels of contaminants. Zebra mussels have also been studied in northern Europe, primarily in The Netherlands, as potential indicators of contaminant concentrations of various water bodies (de Kock and Bowmer 1993) and have been compared to the marine biomonitoring bivalve Mytilus edulis (Fisher 1993). These studies have demonstrated that the zebra mussel can accumulate contaminants due to relatively high filtration rates and high lipid content, reported to be as high as 15 percent (Fisher 1992). It seems clear from analyses of zebra mussels from Netherlands lakes that these animals can accumulate many contaminants, including the metals Cd, Hg, Pb, and Cu, organic contaminants such as PCBs, pesticides, and petroleum hydrocarbons (Reeders and bij de Vaate 1992). In addition, the zebra mussel has been reported to increase contaminants in sediments (Howell 1993).
Since these small bivalves are known to accumulate contaminants from water and food, another important contaminant issue is the disposal of the sometimes large volumes of dead zebra mussels. Public Law 101-646 requires a program of research and technology for the environmentally sound control of zebra mussels. Prior to development of procedures to dispose of large numbers of zebra mussels, information on the concentrations of contaminants that have been bioaccumulated in field populations is necessary. Typical tissue concentrations are generally much higher than water concentrations but are much lower than sediments that require special disposal procedures. Information to date on contaminants in Dreissena polymorpha indicates that their disposal should not normally be a problem and that they should be treated like any other biological waste material.
The Zebra Mussel Research Program (ZMRP) at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS, was established in response to Public Law 101-646. This law requires a program of research and technology for the environmentally sound control of zebra mussels. The ZMRP work unit on contaminants and toxicity-related issues is concerned with questions related to disposal. Technical notes that discuss zebra mussel bioaccumulation and disposal have been produced. To view the ZMR Technical Notes click on the hyperlink provided.
The Collection of Zebra Mussels for Contaminant Analyses
Field Studies on the Contaminants Contained in Zebra Mussels
Bioaccumulation and Lipids
Disposal of Zebra Mussel Waste