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Aquatic Life Criteria - Aluminum

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What is Aluminum?

Aluminum is a natural element and the most common metal in the earth's crust. It is found in most soils and rocks. Aluminum can enter the water via natural processes, like weathering of rocks.

Aluminum is also released to water by mining, industrial processes using aluminum, and waste water treated with alum, an aluminum compound.

How does Aluminum Affect Aquatic Life?

Aluminum is considered a non-essential metal because fish and other aquatic life don’t need it to function. Elevated levels of aluminum can affect some species ability to regulate ions, like salts, and inhibit respiratory functions, like breathing. Aluminum can accumulate on the surface of a fish’s gill, leading to respiratory dysfunction, and possibly death.

2018 Final Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum in Freshwater

The EPA has published final updated aquatic life criteria for aluminum in freshwater that reflect the latest science and allow stakeholders to develop criteria reflecting the impacts of local water chemistry on aluminum toxicity to aquatic life.  You can view the 1988 criteria on our historical water quality criteria documents page.

1988 Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum

The 2018 Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum supersedes the 1988 criteria.