Measuring and modeling zinc and cadmium binding by humic acid

L.A. Osté, E.J.M. Temminghoff, W.H. van Riemsdijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Free metal ions in aqueous and terrestrial systems strongly influence bioavailability and toxicity. Most analytical techniques determine the total metal concentration, including the metal ions bound by dissolved organic matter. Ion activity can be measured with ion-specific electrodes (ISEs) for some metals, but an electrode for Zn is not commercially available. As a result, very few data are available on Zn binding by natural dissolved organic matter. The aim of this study is to determine free Zn concentrations in purified humic acid solutions using the recently developed Donnan membrane technique. However, several analytical aspects of the Donnan membrane technique had to be clarified before reliable data could be composed. Cd was chosen for validation. This study shows that free Cd concentrations as measured by the Donnan membrane technique agreed well with Cd ISE measurements. It is also shown that the Donnan membrane technique could be used at high pH. The Donnan membrane technique provided consistent results in a range of p[Cd2+] = 3-9 and p[Zn2+] = 3-8 at pH 4, 6, and 8. Metal speciation in humic acid solutions was also calculated with the consistent NICA-Donnan model using generic parameters. The model could excellently describe the experimental data without adjusting any of the parameters (R2Cd = 0.971, R2Zn = 0.988)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)856-862
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • metal-ion binding
  • diffusive gradients
  • organic-matter
  • fulvic-acids
  • trace-metals
  • thin-films
  • soil
  • speciation
  • complexation
  • substances

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