Potential risk of lead sinkers in the freshwater environment

Lead sinkers enter the aquatic environment when they disconnect unintentionally or intentionally from fishing gear. As fishing is big in The Netherlands and lots of anglers frequent the same locations, densities of lead sinkers in the sediment can be high. Such concentration of lead could have potential detrimental effects on aquatic biota, such as invertebrates, fish or other wildlife.

However, it should be noted that lead has different speciation in the aquatic environment and that it is especially the dissolved Pb2+ that is cause for concern. Invertebrates are exposed to dissolved lead, while larger animals can also ingest sinkers while foraging for food. The ‘stichting Gezond Water’ has asked the Science Shop of Wageningen University & Research whether it is possible to investigate the potential environmental risks of lead sinkers for the freshwater environment.

To investigate the potential risk of lead sinkers in the Dutch freshwater environment, we will focus on several topics:

  1. is the potential dangerous dissolved lead occurring indeed or are aquatic biota exposed via different routes such as ingestion,
  2. how do potential concentrations of dissolved lead compare to concentrations that are toxic to aquatic invertebrates,
  3. what is the potential risk of ingestion of lead sinkers for aquatic biota, and
  4. are there alternatives available for lead sinkers?

Parts of this research will comprise a review of available literature and the analysis of available databases. In addition, we plan to perform some experiments in the laboratory as well. The results of this project will be published as Science Shop report and as a paper in a (popular) scientific journal.