Paula G Smith, I. Koch, K. Reimer
Feb 1, 2008
The Science of the total environment
The accumulation of arsenic in fur and feathers has been used as an indicator of environmental quality and animal health. However, difficulties remain in distinguishing between arsenic present from external sources versus ingestion. In addition, low extraction efficiencies limit the complete characterization of arsenic compounds in such tissues by conventional analytical techniques (e.g. high performance liquid chromatography inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, HPLC-ICP-MS). X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) provides an alternative method for determining the speciation of arsenic compounds directly. Inorganic arsenic is hypothesized to bind to thiol groups present in keratin-rich fur and feathers; however, arsenic-sulphur compounds are rarely reported in extracts of these tissues. Here we report that 5-58% of the total detected arsenic in rodent fur (vole, deer mouse, red squirrel) and bird feathers (gray jay, American tree sparrow, dark-eyed junco) from animals living in areas of elevated arsenic best resembled an arsenic(III)-sulphur compound as determined using XAS. In addition, fur and feathers with non-detectable levels of arsenic by XAS, were able to reduce pentavalent arsenic applied as either contaminated soil or an arsenate solution. XAS-imaging was used to localize dominant trivalent (AsIII) and pentavalent (AsV) arsenic compounds, and results were used to produce a "map" of arsenic in the sample. It is believed that the some of the reduced arsenic was absorbed, while external AsV compounds associated with soil/dust particles were easily distinguished on goose feathers. However, distinguishing whether internal arsenic arose from exogenous (from the environment) or endogenous (from the body) sources proved difficult with this technique.