Arsenic: An essential element for seaweed? - Verkefnislok

Fréttatilkynning verkefnisstjóra


The results give an overview of toxic arsenic species in Icelandic seaweed, both of the iAs as well as the distribution of arsenolipids.

Inorganic arsenic (iAs) has been a focus of attention worldwide because of its toxicity, and maximum limits (MLs) on iAs in food commodities have been set in China, Australia and New Zealand with upcoming legislation in the EU. Bearing in mind the high demand for reliable and quick methods a HG-ICPMS method was shown to give similar results to the most common method for iAs determination HPLC-ICPMS, although prone to slightly overestimate the iAs concentration. The advantage, however, is that this method excludes all difficulties due to co-elution of the multitude of arsenic species found in seaweed with the measurand the iAs. This method is also quicker with easy and straightforward data treatment and is very suitable as a screening method for iAs in seaweed. The method was verified by the analysis of over 40 seaweed samples. 

Heiti verkefnis: Arsen: Nauðsynlegt frumefni í þangi? / Arsenic: An essential element for seaweed?
Verkefnisstjóri: Helga Gunnlaugsdóttir, Matís ohf.
Tegund styrks: Verkefnisstyrkur
Styrkár: 2013-2014
Fjárhæð styrks: 12,98 millj. kr. alls
Tilvísunarnúmer Rannís: 130542-051

Lipid soluble arsenicals, arsenolipids, were additionally studied. Recent in-vitro studies indicate that some arsenolipids might be highly toxic and more information on their presence and distribution in different matrices is needed. Brown alga Ectocarpus was grown in cultures to study the effect of different environmental conditions on the alga. Interestingly, at phosphate deficient conditions no arsenosugars with phosphate were present, despite them being present at control conditions. However, for one strain of Ectocarpus there was a significant increase in production of arsenophospholipids which opens up the discussion on how and why these species are produced.

Matís now has the facilities and know-how to measure iAs in different matrices. This is increasingly important, with upcoming EU legislation on iAs in food. The results give an overview of toxic arsenic species in Icelandic seaweed, both of the iAs as well as the distribution of arsenolipids. Additionally, the study on arsenolipids is a valuable contribution to the scarce knowledge on the arsenolipids in seaweed, and is the first report on arsenolipids in Icelandic seaweed. The project will result in three papers in peer-reviewed publications. One paper on iAs methodology has been published in Analycital Chemistry, a second one on arsenolipids in Ectocarpus has been accepted for publication in Environmental Chemistry (2015) and a third manuscript is in preparation.

Additionally the project resulted in a PhD thesis from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

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