Marine Life In South Pacific Region Found To Be Impervious To Oceans' Highest Arsenic Levels

Iron Minerals Play Protective Role

(The online version of the research paper cited below is available on the American Chemical Society's ASAP (As Soon As Publishable) web site. Journalists desiring full access to papers at the ASAP site must submit their requests in writing to n_blount@acs.org in the ACS Office of News & Information.)

Despite living in waters with the highest known marine concentration of naturally occurring arsenic found anywhere in the world, fish, clams and coral in waters near Papua New Guinea apparently are suffering no ill effects, according to a research report appearing this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Iron minerals in the sediment appear to play a role in protecting marine life in this hostile environment.

Scientists believe the findings could eventually help in developing new methods that use natural products to treat arsenic-tainted waste generated by people. Extremely toxic, arsenic is one of the most difficult waste contaminants to remove.

The research, conducted by scientists from the University of Ottawa and the Geological Survey of Canada, appears in the May 1 issue of the peer-reviewed science journal, published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The article was initially published on the journal's Web site on March 11.

Examining hydrothermal vents in the sea floor of Tutum Bay, adjacent to tiny Ambitle Island along the coast of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean just north of Australia, the researchers found boiling fluids with "extremely high arsenic concentrations" discharging from the vents into the water with the force of a fire hose.

The measured arsenic levels were more than 400 times that of the trace amounts of arsenic normally found in seawater, according to the University of Ottawa's Tho

Contact: Charmayne Marsh
American Chemical Society

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