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The fate and behavior of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals: examining lead (Pb) as a PBT metal

  • Larissa Check and Anne Marteel-Parrish EMAIL logo


Persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals are a class of chemicals that resist degradation and persist in the environment for extensive periods. As a result of their persistence, when these chemicals are consumed, they bioaccumulate in the fat tissues, bones, and brain of organisms. Lead (Pb) is a PBT metal with the ability to bind irreversibly to neurons and to mimic natural minerals like calcium and zinc. The aim of this review is to examine the unique properties of a PBT, like Pb, as well as the analytic methods of detecting and characterizing PBTs. This review offers sections that explore Pb’s persistence in the environment, bioaccumulation in fish and birds, and toxic characteristics in the human body. It further examines how Pb’s effects on transcription factors could explain the observed Pb lines in Pb-poisoned individuals. This review also evaluates the relationship between the properties of persistence and bioaccumulation as a means to determine whether or not they are interconnected, interdependent, or independent of one another.

Corresponding author: Anne Marteel-Parrish, Department of Chemistry, Washington College, 300 Washington Avenue, Chestertown, MD 21620, USA, Phone: +1-410-778-7795, E-mail:


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Received: 2013-5-24
Accepted: 2013-8-15
Published Online: 2013-11-06
Published in Print: 2013-11-01

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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