Uranium Toxicity to Fish

Abstract of the journal article published in Fish Physiology Volume 31b: Homeostasis and Toxicology of Non-Essential Metals
August 8, 2011

Prepared by:
Richard R. Goulet
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)


Fish generally take up uranium (i.e. free uranyl ion (UO22+)) via the gill; however, diet and/or sediment may be the major route of uptake, which may vary with feeding strategy. Fish accumulate uranium in bone, liver and kidney. Uranium toxicity is low relative to many other metals and is further reduced by increased pH, calcium, carbonates, phosphate, and dissolved organic matter in the water. Contrary to popular belief, alpha radiation from uranium-238 is less of a concern to fish than its chemotoxicity. For instance, in a fish lifetime, uranium can limit the uptake of calcium or if ingested in sufficient quantity, will mainly affect kidney functions.

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