Quantification of Methylated Selenium, Sulfur, and Arsenic in the Environment

B. Vriens, A.A. Ammann, H. Hagendorfer, M. Lenz, M. Berg, L.H.E. Winkel

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Biomethylation and volatilization of trace elements may contribute to their redistribution in the environment. However, quantification of volatile, methylated species in the environment is complicated by a lack of straightforward and field-deployable air sampling methods that preserve element speciation. This paper presents a robust and versatile gas trapping method for the simultaneous preconcentration of volatile selenium (Se), sulfur (S), and arsenic (As) species. Using HPLC-HR-ICP-MS and ESI-MS/MS analyses, we demonstrate that volatile Se and S species efficiently transform into specific non-volatile compounds during trapping, which enables the deduction of the original gaseous speciation. With minor adaptations, the presented HPLC-HR-ICP-MS method also allows for the quantification of 13 non-volatile methylated species and oxyanions of Se, S, and As in natural waters. Application of these methods in a peatland indicated that, at the selected sites, fluxes varied between 190–210 ng Se·m-2·d-1, 90–270 ng As·m-2·d-1, and 4–14 µg S·m-2·d-1, and contained at least 70% methylated Se and S species. In the surface water, methylated species were particularly abundant for As (>50% of total As). Our results indicate that methylation plays a significant role in the biogeochemical cycles of these elements
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere102906
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • plasma-mass spectrometry
  • atomic fluorescence spectrometry
  • solid-phase microextraction
  • gas-chromatography
  • speciation analysis
  • volatile selenium
  • natural-waters
  • icp-ms
  • elements
  • air

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