Journal article Open Access
Dennis Lemly, A.
Selenium pollution is a worldwide phenomenon and is associated with a broad spectrum of human activities, ranging from the most basic agricultural practices to the most high-tech industrial processes. Consequently, selenium contamination of aquatic habitats can take place in urban, suburban, and rural settings alike--from mountains to plains, from deserts to rainforests, and from the Arctic to the tropics. Human activities that increase waterborne concentrations of selenium are on the rise and the threat of widespread impacts to aquatic life is greater than ever before. Important sources of selenium contamination in aquatic habitats are often overlooked by environmental biologists and ecological risk assessors due to preoccupation with other, higher priority pollutants, yet selenium may pose the most serious long-term risk to aquatic habitats and fishery resources. Failure to include selenium in the list of constituents measured in contaminant screening/monitoring programs is a major mistake, both from the hazard assessment aspect and from the pollution control aspect. Once selenium contamination begins, a cascade of bioaccumulation events is set into motion which makes meaningful intervention nearly impossible. However, this cascade of events need not happen if adequate foresight and planning are exercised. Early evaluation and action are key. Prudent risk management based on environmentally sound hazard assessment and water quality goals can prevent biological impacts.