5. Absorption and Bioconcentration

  1. Ian J. Tinsley

Published Online: 2 JUN 2004

DOI: 10.1002/047166717X.ch5

Chemical Concepts in Pollutant Behavior

Chemical Concepts in Pollutant Behavior

How to Cite

Tinsley, I. J. (2004) Absorption and Bioconcentration, in Chemical Concepts in Pollutant Behavior, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA. doi: 10.1002/047166717X.ch5

Author Information

  1. Oregon State University, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 2 JUN 2004
  2. Published Print: 1 JUN 2004

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780471095255

Online ISBN: 9780471667179



  • absorption;
  • skin;
  • gills;
  • intestine;
  • roots leaves;
  • octanol/water partition coefficient;
  • pKa;
  • biomembrane;
  • passive diffusion;
  • ion trap mechanism;
  • root concentration factor;
  • bioconcentration;
  • biomagnification;
  • bioconcentration factor


Passive diffusion is the primary mechanism by which organic compounds move into an organism across a biological membrane. The rate of uptake depends on the hydrophobic character of the compound usually indicated by the octanol/water partition coefficient. pKa of acids and bases in relation to the environmental pH also affect uptake. With very hydrophobic compounds the rate appears to be limited by the concentration gradient across a water barrier adjacent to the membrane. Absorption through gills, skin and intestine is discussed along with the effect of pH differentials across the membrane. Movement through roots and leaves is reviewed and in the latter case the relation between adsorption and absorption is developed. Interesting differences among plant species are noted. Bioconcentration in aquatic biota is related to the octanol/water partition coefficient and the influence of dissolved organic matter and length of exposure reviewed. Uptake from sediments is also discussed.