Assessment of bioavailable arsenic and copper in soils and desiments from the Antofagasta region of northern Chile

Helen Catherine Flynn, V. McMahon, G. C. Diaz, C. S. Denergasso, P. Corbisier, Andrew Alexander Meharg, Graeme Iain Paton

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60 Citations (Scopus)


Copper levels of nearly 500 mg l(-1) were measured in aqueous extracts of soil and sediment samples from the lowlands of Antofagasta. Arsenic levels of up to 183 mg l(-1) were found in river sediments, and 27.5 mg l(-1) arsenic was found at the location of a dam where potable water is extracted. This indicates that the arsenic contamination of water supplies reported recently for the pre-Andes may be a widespread problem throughout. the region. Copper contamination from smelting activities also provides cause for concern as elevated levels were found in aqueous extracts of soil up to 20 km away from a smelter. This study went beyond traditional chemical analysis by assessing the potential benefits of using microbial biosensors as an alternative to determination of chemical speciation, to provide an environmentally relevant interpretation of soil/sediment residue levels. This approach is simple to use and enables a rapid, low cost assessment of pollutant bioavailability. It may, therefore, be of use for further investigations in the region and beyond. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-59
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • arsenic
  • copper
  • microbial biosensors
  • Chile
  • soil
  • sediment
  • drinking-water
  • escherichia-coli
  • ars operon
  • resistance
  • cadmium
  • speciation
  • bacterial
  • antimony
  • plasmid
  • health


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