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Definition of copper:
Copper is a heavy metal with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29[1]. It is very ductile and malleable[2].
This is the common definition for copper, other definitions can be discussed in the article


The bucktail creek- turquoise color is copper precipitate on rocks © Iadanza, NOAA, 1996

Important anthropogenic inputs of copper into the ocean include urban sewage sludge dumping, runoff from copper mines and antifouling paints [3]. Copper is an essential element for animals, especially decapods, gastropods and cephalopods need copper in their respiratory pigment hemocyanin. Hemocyanin is a protein which (like hemoglobin) binds oxygen to transport it to the tissues.

Copper is however also one of the most toxic metals to a wide spectrum of marine life [4]. Copper concentrations between 1 and 10 µg/l can seriously affect a large number of marine organisms. These concentrations have lethal effects on scallops, clams and isopods, while other species are protected by copper binding metallothioneins [3].

Oysters appear to accumulate large amounts of copper in their leucocytes (a type of blood cel), where they do little harm. Copper, like most other metals, doesn't show biomagnifying characteristics.

Case studies

The relation between pollutants and disease in guillemots

Heavy metal content of mussels in the Western Scheldt estuary

Effects of copper-based antifouling paints on brine shrimp

Effects of heavy metals on the sperm quality and the larvae survival of sea urchins

Heavy metals in various Belgian benthic invertebrates

See also

Copper on the ED North Database

Copper(I)chloride on the Ecotox Database

Copper(II)oxide on the Ecotox Database


  1. July 31 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kennish, M. J. (1996): Practical Handbook of Estuarine and Marine Pollution, CRC Press 524 pp
  4. Clark, R,B., 1999. Marine pollution. Oxford University press, Fourth edition, pp 161
The main author of this article is Daphnis De Pooter
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Daphnis De Pooter (2020): Copper. Available from [accessed on 22-06-2024]