The characterization of trace elements in terms of their apportionment among dissolved, macromolecular, nano- and micro-particulate phases in the water column of the Great Salt Lake carries implications for the potential entry of toxins into the food web of the lake. Samples from the anoxic deep and oxic shallow brine layers of the lake were fractionated using asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation (AF4). The associated trace elements were measured via online collision cell inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (CC-ICP-MS). Results showed that of the total (dissolved + particulate) trace element mass, the percent associated with particulates varied from negligible (e.g. Sb), to greater than 50% (e.g. Al, Fe, Pb). Elements such as Cu, Zn, Mn, Co, Au, Hg, and U were associated with nanoparticles, as well as being present as dissolved species. Particulate-associated trace elements were predominantly associated with particulates larger than 450 nm in size. Among the smaller nanoparticulates (<450 nm), some trace elements (Ni, Zn, Au and Pb) showed higher percent mass (associated with nanoparticles) in the 0.9-7.5 nm size range relative to the 10-250 nm size range. The apparent nanoparticle size distributions were similar between the two brine layers; whereas, important differences in elemental associations to nanoparticles were discerned between the two layers. Elements such as Zn, Cu, Pb and Mo showed increasing signal intensities from oxic shallow to anoxic deep brine, suggesting the formation of sulfide nanoparticles, although this may also reflect association with dissolved organic matter. Aluminum and Fe showed greatly increased concentration with depth and equivalent size distributions that differed from those of Zn, Cu, Pb and Mo. Other elements (e.g. Mn, Ni, and Co) showed no significant change in signal intensity with depth. Arsenic was associated with <2 nm nanoparticles, and showed no increase in concentration with depth, possibly indicating dissolved arsenite. Mercury was associated with <2 nm nanoparticles, and showed greatly increased concentration with depth, possibly indicating association with dissolved organic matter. ?? 2009 Elsevier Ltd.
Additional publication details
Size and elemental distributions of nano- to micro-particulates in the geochemically-stratified Great Salt Lake