The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) does not include the term bioaccumulation in your dictionary. The concept, however, is often used in the field of toxicology to name a process that takes place in the living beings and that implies that these organisms accumulate chemicals until reaching a concentration higher than those existing in the environment.
Bioaccumulation can be generated through resources Biotics (living organisms) or abiotic (like water or air). Digestion and respiration are two pathways of bioaccumulation.
Mercury compounds, dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) and heptachlor are some of the substances that can lead to bioaccumulation. When this occurs process, the body absorbs the substances and stores them in its tissues, without achieving their elimination through metabolic action. These living things are said to act like bioindicators since they allow to know the presence of pollutants in the environment.
Bioaccumulation can be observed in many aquatic organisms. The sharks, by ingesting many fish, end up absorbing high doses of heavy metals, which remain in their fabrics and that can generate intoxication.
In short, it can be said that bioaccumulation is the accumulation in a living being of a chemical substance that persists over time, acquired by the body through ingestion of other organisms or through contact with the environment. This accumulation, with the food chain, reaches a level higher than the concentration of the substance in the environment.
One of the concepts that appear in this context is that of biomagnification, a phenomenon characterized by transmission from bioaccumulation through the food web (also known as food web or food cycle): when a living being is predated, the predatory organism starts to host the first’s pollutants. In this way, as the food cycle increases, the concentration of contaminants increases.
The main sources of pollutants are oil refineries and mining industries, which carry out discharges in the water systems that modify the ecosystem unnecessarily and harmful, forcing aquatic organisms to participate in the bioaccumulation of mercury and heavy metals, among other harmful substances. The reason for this phenomenon is that the aforementioned pollutants are hydrophobic, which is why they tend to accumulate in the fatty tissues of living beings.
As mentioned above, these pollutants do not break down easily and are therefore also known as organic pollutants persistent. This characteristic allows them to travel long distances across the ocean, and they are very often seen on various beaches.
The human being has been located at the top of the food web, if only by making use of weapons and artificial processes. But – like it or not – everything is paid for, and bioaccumulation is one of the phenomena that prove this inevitable way that life has of charging us for our bad acts: all the pollutants that we throw into the sea negatively affect aquatic living beings but, as we later catch them to eat them, we finally ingest the high concentrations of metals at which they we submitted at first.
Needless to say, this does not give rise to an awareness movement that leads the human being to cease the mistreatment animal and start eating vegetables, as vegans do; on the contrary, it simply causes you to try to reduce the presence of mercury in animals by any means, which in no way will you stop tasting at your table. It is worth mentioning that one of the consequences of the consumption of these pollutants is the alteration of mental capacities.