US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 67 (2007) 31–47; doi:10.1016/j.ecoenv.2006.12.011


The potential effects of proposed lead-zinc mining in an ecologically sensitive area were assessed by studying a nearby mining district that has been exploited for about 30 y under contemporary environmental regulations and with modern technology. Blood and liver samples representing fish of three species (largescale stoneroller, Campostoma oligolepis, n = 91; longear sunfish, Lepomis megalotis, n = 105; and northern hog sucker, Hypentelium nigricans, n = 20) from 16 sites representing a range of conditions relative to mining activities were collected. Samples were analyzed for metals (also reported in a companion paper) and for biomarkers of metals exposure [erythrocyte δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALA-D) activity; concentrations of zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP), iron, and hemoglobin (Hb) in blood; and hepatic metallothionein (MT) gene expression and lipid peroxidation]. Blood lead concentrations were significantly higher and ALA-D activity significantly lower in all species at sites nearest to active lead-zinc mines and in a stream contaminated by historical mining than at reference or downstream sites. ALA-D activity was also negatively correlated with blood lead concentrations in all three species but not with other metals. Iron and Hb concentrations were positively correlated in all three species, but were not correlated with any other metals in blood or liver in any species. MT gene expression was positively correlated with liver zinc concentrations, but neither MT nor lipid peroxidase differences among fish grouped according to lead concentrations were statistically significant. ZPP was not detected by hematofluorometry in most fish, but fish with detectable ZPP were from sites affected by mining. Collectively, these results confirm that metals are released to streams from active lead-zinc mining sites and are accumulated by fish.