The biogeochemical cycle of arsenic (As) has been extensively studied over the past decades because As is an environmentally ubiquitous, nonthreshold carcinogen, which is often elevated in drinking water and food. It has been known for over a century that micro-organisms can volatilize inorganic As salts to arsines (arsine AsH(3), mono-, di-, and trimethylarsines, MeAsH(2), Me(2)AsH, and TMAs, respectively), but this part of the As cycle, with the exception of geothermal environs, has been almost entirely neglected because of a lack of suited field measurement approaches. Here, a validated, robust, and low-level field-deployable method employing arsine chemotrapping was used to quantify and qualify arsines emanating from soil surfaces in the field. Up to 240 mg/ha/y arsines was released from low-level polluted paddy soils (11.3 ± 0.9 mg/kg As), primarily as TMAs, whereas arsine flux below method detection limit was measured from a highly contaminated mine spoil (1359 ± 212 mg/kg As), indicating that soil chemistry is vital in understanding this phenomenon. In microcosm studies, we could show that under reducing conditions, induced by organic matter (OM) amendment, a range of soils varied in their properties, from natural upland peats to highly impacted mine-spoils, could all volatilize arsines. Volatilization rates from 0.5 to 70 µg/kg/y were measured, and AsH(3), MeAsH(2), Me(2)AsH, and TMAs were all identified. Addition of methylated oxidated pentavalent As, namely monomethylarsonic acid (MMAA) and dimethylarsinic acid (DMAA), to soil resulted in elevated yearly rates of volatilization with up to 3.5% of the total As volatilized, suggesting that the initial conversion of inorganic As to MMAA limits the rate of arsine and methylarsines production by soils. The nature of OM amendment altered volatilization quantitatively and qualitatively, and total arsines release from soil showed correlation between the quantity of As and the concentration of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the soil porewater. The global flux of arsines emanating from soils was estimated and placed in the context of As atmospheric inputs, with arsines contributing from 0.9 to 2.6% of the global budget.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry