Quantification of methylated selenium, sulfur, and arsenic in the environment
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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.