Heavy metals in Venezuelan marine sediments: concentrations, degree of contamination, and distribution

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Ruth Ramos
Alejandra Verde
Elia M García


Venezuelan oil exploration and exploitation activities have been taking place since the 18th century. These long-term activities are closely related to heavy metal contamination because of the increasing input of toxic pollutants. Variations in heavy metal concentrations can cause, among other things, changes in metal distribution patterns, alterations in biogeochemical cycles, and increments in environmental and biological risks. The need for a complete baseline on heavy metal concentrations along the Venezuelan coast is critical. For this reason, we present the concentrations, distribution, and degree of contamination of 9 heavy metals (barium, mercury, copper, nickel, chromium, cadmium, zinc, lead, and vanadium) in marine sediments along the Venezuelan coast. We used the enrichment factor, the geoaccumulation index, and the mean effects range median quotients to evaluate the degree of contamination, comparing areas with and without intervention. Our results indicate that higher concentrations of these heavy metals are associated with places with greater anthropic activity, especially on the central and eastern coasts of Venezuela. Only cadmium showed extremely severe enrichment and a high degree of contamination. The biohazard potential was between 12% and 30% and was primarily associated with locations having high oil activity, which suggests that these places must be monitored, given the potential hazard they represent. This work encompasses the distribution and concentration of 9 heavy metals along the Venezuelan coast and takes relevance as a baseline for heavy metal concentrations and pollution indicators in marine sediments for Venezuela and the Caribbean.


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Ramos, R., Verde, A., & García, E. M. (2021). Heavy metals in Venezuelan marine sediments: concentrations, degree of contamination, and distribution. Ciencias Marinas, 47(3), 185–199. https://doi.org/10.7773/cm.v47i3.3124