Determination of heavy metals in some tissues of four fish species from the Karasu River (Erzincan, Turkey) for public consumption

Özge Zencir Tanır

Paper category: Original research paper
Corresponding author: Özge Zencir Tanır (
DOI: 10.1515/ohs-2021-0020
Received: 20/10/2020
Accepted: 01/12/2020
Full text: here

Citation: Tanır,Ö.(2021).Determination of heavy metals in some tissues of four fish species from the Karasu River (Erzincan, Turkey) for public consumption. Oceanological and Hydrobiological Studies,50(2) 232-246.


The study aimed at determining the concentration of heavy metals in muscle, liver, and gill tissues of four fish species (Acanthobrama marmid, Capoeta umbla, Capoeta trutta and Chondrostoma regium) collected from five sites in the Karasu River, Erzincan, between July 2019 and January 2020. The relationships between fish size (length and weight) and metal concentrations in the tissues were also investigated using Pearson correlation analysis. Concentrations of Al, Fe, Cu, Mn and Zn were higher than those of other metals in all tissue samples from four fish species. Fe and Al concentrations were very high, while the lowest Co, Cd and Pb concentrations were determined in the muscle, liver and gill tissues. The results of Pearson correlation analysis showed that significant relationships between heavy metal concentrations and fish size (length and weight) were positive (p < 0.01, p < 0.05), except for a few cases. Furthermore, heavy metal concentrations in the edible parts (muscle) of the studied fish species did not exceed the maximum acceptable concentrations (MACs) proposed by national and international food standards and were safe within human consumption limits, except for Cr.


Fish are at the top of the aquatic food chain. They are indicators of the water quality status and of water pollution, especially by heavy metals. In freshwater, heavy metals accumulate more in fish species (Cyprinidae) that feed on sediment (Cağlar et al. 2019). In this context, the present study was carried out to provide information on heavy metal concentrations in muscle, liver, and gill tissues of Tigris scraper, trout barb, Tigris bream, and Mesopotamian nase inhabiting the Karasu River, which are consumed by local people, and to evaluate the relationships between the size (length and weight) of the fish and the concentrations of metals in their tissues. The highest concentrations of heavy metals were found in gills or liver, while the lowest concentrations were found in muscle. Muscle was not an active tissue in the accumulation of heavy metals. The accumulation of metals varied depending on species-specific factors, including mainly feeding behavior, fish size and age. The results of Pearson correlation analysis showed that, except for a few cases, significant correlations between metal concentrations and fish size (length and weight) were positive (p < 0.01, p < 0.05). Furthermore, heavy metal concentrations recorded in the edible parts of the four fish species studied were within the permissible limits set by national or international organizations for human consumption. It was concluded that the determined concentrations of heavy metals in fish collected from the Karasu River did not pose any threat to human health. Although the levels of the analyzed metals were below the recommended limits for human consumption, a potential risk could arise for people consuming fish depending on the size of fish and the load of heavy metals in the area. People living around the river and the authorities of these areas, in particular, should be made aware of these issues, as well as informed about fertilizers and treatment of domestic wastewater.
Future studies are recommended to more comprehensively determine the relationship between the content of heavy metals in sediments and their levels in fish, taking into account the physicochemical properties of water, including heavy metal content.


This study was supported by the Erzincan Binali Yıldırım University Scientific Research Projects Coordination Unit (Project No. FBA-2019-634). I would like to thank Erzincan Binali Yıldırım University, Scientific Research Projects Unit for their financial support and Dr. Hülya TÜRK for her help in the analysis of metals by ICP-MS, Assoc. Prof. Özden FAKIOĞLU, Assoc. Prof. Harun ARSLAN and Assoc. Prof. Selçuk ÖZDEMİR for their help in field studies.


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