Identification of arsenic species in sheep-wool extracts by different chromatographic methods

Andrea Raab, David R Genney, Andrew Alexander Meharg, Jörg Feldmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Sheep on the island of North Ronaldsay (Orkney, UK) feed mostly on seaweed, which contains high concentrations of dimethylated arsenoribosides. Wool of these sheep contains dimethylated, monomethylated and inorganic arsenic, in addition to unidentified arsenic species in unbound and complexed form. Chromatographic techniques using different separation mechanisms and detectors enabled us to identify five arsenic species in water extracts of wool. The wool contained 5.2 +/- 2.3 mug arsenic per gram wool. About 80% of the arsenic in wool was extracted by boiling the wool with water. The main species is dimethylarsenic, which accounted for about 75 to 85%, monomethylated arsenic at about 5% and the rest is inorganic arsenic. Depending on the separation method and condition, the chromatographic recovery of arsenic species was between 45% for the anion exchange column, 68% for the size exclusion chromatography (SEC) and 82% for the cation exchange column. The SEC revealed the occurrence of two unknown arsenic compounds, of which one was probably a high molecular mass species. Since chromatographic recovery can be improved by either treating the extract with CuCl/HCl (CAT: 90%) or longer storage of the sample (CAT: 105%), in particular for methylated arsenic species, it can be assumed that labile arsenic-protein-like coordination species occur in the extract, which cannot be speciated with conventional chromatographic methods. It is clear from our study of sheep wool that there can be different kinds of 'hidden' arsenic in biological matrices, depending on the extraction, separation and detection methods used. Hidden species can be defined as species that are not recordable by the detection system, not extractable or do not elute from chromatographic columns. Copyright (C) 2003 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-692
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Organometallic Chemistry
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • arsenic
  • sheep
  • seaweed
  • analysis
  • methyl arsenic
  • wool extract


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