Biovolatilization of Arsenic as Arsines from Seawater

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Marine sources of arsenic to the atmosphere are normally dismissed as minor. Here we show that arsenic can be biovolatilized from seawater, and that biovolatilzation is based on organic arsenic species present in the seawater. Even though inorganic arsenic is in great excess in seawaters, it is trimethylarsine (TMA) that is the primary biovolatilized product, with dimethylarsine (DMA) also observed if dimethylarsinic acid (DMAA) is spiked into seawaters. With respect to budgets, 0.04% of the total arsenic in the seawater was biovolatilized over a 2-week incubation period. To test the environmental significance of this finding, wet deposition was analyzed for arsenic species at coastal locations, one of which was the origin of the seawater. It was found that the oxidized product of TMA, trimethylarsine oxide (TMAO), and to a less extent DMAA were widely present. When outputs for arsines (0.9 nmol/m2/d) from seawater and inputs from wet deposition (0.3-0.5 nmol/m2/d) were compared, they were of the same order of magnitude. These findings provide impetus to reexamining the global arsenic cycle, as there is now a need to determine the flux of arsines from the ocean to the atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental science & technology
Early online date05 Mar 2018
Publication statusEarly online date - 05 Mar 2018


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