Abstract The effect of humic acids (HAs) on the toxicity of copper, zinc, and lead was investigated using the photobacterium Vibrio fischeri (Microtox test) as a test organism. The effects of HAs on metal toxicity were evaluated as functions of time and concentration in pure compound solutions. The toxicities of copper and lead were generally comparable, while the toxicity of zinc was lower than those of the other two metals. The toxicity of copper decreased with the addition of HAs, while the toxicity of zinc remained almost constant. On the other hand, the toxicity of lead increased, depending on the concentration of HAs. The interactive effects between copper and zinc and between lead and zinc were synergistic, while the interactive effect between copper and lead on the bioluminescence of V. fischeri was additive. The presence of HAs caused relatively high toxicity reduction in the binary mixtures of zinc and copper or zinc and lead, while the toxicity reduction in the case of the binary mixture of copper and lead was negligible.