Arsenicals have been used extensively in agriculture in the United States as insecticides and herbicides. Mono- and disodium methylarsonate and dimethylarsinic acid are organoarsenicals used to control weeds in cotton fields and as defoliation agents applied prior to cotton harvesting. Because the toxicity of most organoarsenicals is less than that of inorganic arsenic species, the introduction of these compounds into the environment might seem benign. However, biotic and abiotic degradation reactions can produce more problematic inorganic forms of arsenic, such as arsenite [As(III)] and arsenate [As(V)]. This study investigates the occurrences of these compounds in samples of soil and associated surface and groundwaters. Preliminary results show that surface water samples from cotton-producing areas have elevated concentrations of methylarsenic species (>10 ??g of As/L) compared to background areas (<1 ??g of As/L). Species transformations also occur between surface waters and adjacent soils and groundwaters, which also contain elevated arsenic. The data indicate that point sources of arsenic related to agriculture might be responsible for increased arsenic concentrations in local irrigation wells, although the elevated concentrations did not exceed the new (2002) arsenic maximum contaminant level of 10 ??g/L in any of the wells sampled thus far.
Additional publication details
Presence of organoarsenicals used in cotton production in agricultural water and soil of the Southern United States