US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 77: 99–119, 2002.


US government work


We assessed the effects on fish of lead (Pb) released to streams by smelters located in Trail, BC (Canada), E. Helena, MT, Herculaneum, MO, and Glover, MO. Fish were collected by electrofishing from sites located downstream of smelters and from reference sites. Blood from each fish was analyzed for δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALAD) activity and hemoglobin (Hb), and samples of blood, liver, or carcass were analyzed for Pb, zinc (Zn), or both. Fish collected downstream of all four smelters sites had elevated Pb concentrations, decreased ALAD activity, or both relative to their respective reference sites. At E. Helena, fish from the downstream site also had lower Hb concentrations than fish from upstream. Differences among taxa were also apparent. Consistent with previous studies, ALAD activity in catostomids (Pisces: Catostomidae-northern hog sucker, Hypentelium nigricans; river carpsucker, Carpiodes carpio; largescale sucker, Catostomus macrocheilus; and mountain sucker, C. platyrhynchus) seemed more sensitive to Pb-induced ALAD inhibition than the salmonids (Pisces: Salmonidae-rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss; brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis) or common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Some of these differences may have resulted from differential accumulation of Zn, which was not measured at all sites. We detected no ALAD activity in channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) from either site on the Mississippi River at Herculaneum, MO. Our findings confirmed that Pb is released to aquatic ecosystems by smelters and accumulated by fish, and we documented potentially adverse effects of Pb in fish. We recommend that Zn be measured along with Pb when ALAD activity is used as a biomarker and the collection of at least 10 fish of a species at each site to facilitate statistical analysis.