Bio-accumulation & Bio-magnification

Picture Creator:Bridger


WHAT?  As said in my previous post, Bio-accumulation is the gradual accumulation of harmful substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism.

HOW? One way is by an amount of the chemical coming into the living organism faster than the organism can break it down and use it. To put it simply, there is more input than output, therefore causing the chemical to accumulate in the organism.

The other main way is by the chemical coming into the living organism and the organism not being able to break it down or excrete it in any way whatsoever. Ergo, the chemical continues to accumulate until it eventually becomes deadly to the living organism.

Here are some examples of how this would occur: Let’s take car emissions – they are a huge contributory factor as they release chemicals into the air. Now picture these building up in trees and birds. Upon raining, these chemicals would then get washed out of the air and seep into the ground where they would certainly enter plants and the animals which eat these plants.

Another example is illustrated below and in water:

Bio accumulatiom

As humans, we sit at the top of the food chain, and those droplets of toxins in plankton/krill can be quite substantial by the time we ingest they get to us through the links in the food chain.


WHAT? Also known as bio-amplification/biological magnification, Bio-magnification is a cumulative increase in the concentrations of a persistent substance (e.g. pesticides, metals, etc.) as it moves up the food chain.

The below drawing nicely illustrates what this is, with mercury being the heavy metal


HOW? Bio-accumulation occurs at the base of a food web, usually within primary producers like phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms absorb POPs or Persistent Organic Pollutants like DDT ( an insecticide) or PCBs (flame retardants) directly from the seawater and accumulate them in their bodies over time. The toxins build up in their tissues because they are absorbed from the water at a rate faster than they can be metabolized. Bio-magnification then occurs when slightly larger organisms called zooplankton feed upon the contaminated phytoplankton and in turn absorb POPs into their own tissues at a higher concentration. The POPs can be passed from producer to consumer (to consumer, to consumer, and so on…) Bio-magnification can continue all the way up the food web or chain. Because the amounts of POPs become more and more concentrated at each link in the food chain, some of the ocean’s apex predators are at risk of gaining potentially fatal levels of POPs within their bodies, like orcas for example.


Now consider this: All the toxins we ingest through our foods bio accumulate in our bodies and as apex predators, these toxins are bio-magnified through the food chain. To top it, we live in increasingly polluted cities and use products with known and unknown chemicals on our bodies ( soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, toothpastes, perfumes, makeup etc, in our homes ( detergents, air fresheners, anti-dust sprays, sprays to polish and clean furniture etc), in our offices ( sprays to clean surfaces, floor cleaners, air fresheners etc) far from nature in concrete jungles …is it any surprise that we are increasingly sick, depressed and unhappy? 

So, I feel one should reasonably avoid as many chemicals as possible and try to simplify life by making careful, sustainable choices which work out not just for us as individuals but us as a society. And in the long run, it will work out for your pocket too!


Step 2: Go Organic a: Veggies


There are no two ways about it – you have to go organic. Since I first went organic in the 90’s, prices have come down unbelievably. Needless to say, the more the demand, the more the supply. And though tis true that fruit and vegetable don’t LOOK as good, they certainly taste better. And I celebrate some bugs in my veg and fruit, especially live ones for it shows that my edibles are not immersed in a toxic sludge of chemicals. Nothing wrong with a few teeny bugs, c’mon!

There are many adherents for and many people against organic, the latter citing price, it being a scam etc. Say what you will, people, but I refuse to buy fruit and veg which stay without rotting for weeks, some with a patina of wax and most with a patina of chemicals from pesticides etc. Here is a website about pesticides in our food and a risk (Jesus!) guide. And Here is just one of several articles which shows how organic food benefits outweigh conventional.

After many months of trial and research, I found that what suits my lifestyle best is a weekly organic box. If not delivered, I need it to be from a place fairly nearby as I don’t own a car and the idea of lugging this weight from far away is just not practical. I pay 20 Euros for a box which ranges from 8-9 kilos, of assorted fruit and veg. They always add some organic eggs / dried pulses or a tetra brick of an organic vegetable milk. And to top it, the owners are not just warm and friendly but, the shop has a beautiful array of inspiring vegetables for that occasional top up 🙂 Plus I love to be surprised as the fruit and veg vary as per availability and season.