EGU24-18111, updated on 11 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Isotope fingerprinting of organically complexed chromium – the natural story of a pollutant

Wenhao Wang1, Vladislav Chrastný2, Johannes Hettler1, Naresh Kumar3, and Stephan Kraemer1
Wenhao Wang et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Geosciences, University of Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria
  • 2Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, 165 00 Prague, Czech Republic
  • 3Soil Chemistry, Wageningen University and Research, 6700AA Wageningen, The Netherlands

Chromium (Cr) is a redox sensitive element and Cr isotope composition (δ53Cr) has been widely utilised to reflect the extent of Cr(VI) reduction during Cr pollution mitigation, as well as changes in past atmospheric/oceanic oxygenation. Whilst redox transformations are thought to primarily drive the Cr isotopic variability in modern aquatic environments, other processes, such as ligand promoted dissolution, can occur, potentially overprinting the intrinsic δ53Cr signal.

In this study, laboratory-controlled batch and flow-through column experiments on two distinct soil materials were conducted to understand the leaching behaviour of Cr and Cr isotopes, under both oxygenated and O2-free conditions. Significant dissolution of Cr(III), together with Fe and Mn, from the solid phase in the presence of low-molecular-weight organic acids was observed over the time course of all experiments. Initial isotope analyses on Cr(III)-citrate complexes show that δ53Cr values are ~ −0.60 to −0.09‰, reflecting the pristine Cr isotopic signature of the two soil materials. In addition, whilst formation of authigenic Fe particles means that a fraction of dissolved Cr is scavenged, such that solid phase Cr may be associated with Fe, Cr does not seem to be remobilised during reductive dissolution of Fe (and Mn) oxides in these experiments.

Results from this study have several implications. Firstly, as Cr is a known carcinogen, increased levels of organic ligands, e.g., in paddy field systems, can cause increased environmental and health risks. Secondly, organic ligands may play an overlooked role in modulating the input and removal processes of dissolved Cr to/from various environments. Finally, ligand-bound Cr(III) likely has a ‘stabilised’ isotopic signature that is distinct from Cr(VI), making it possible to trace this ‘additional’ Cr in aquatic systems; it is difficult to characterise or quantify these Cr-organic complexes using conventional analytical methods.

This work is part of the CHROMA project funded by H2020-MSCA-IF (101031974).

How to cite: Wang, W., Chrastný, V., Hettler, J., Kumar, N., and Kraemer, S.: Isotope fingerprinting of organically complexed chromium – the natural story of a pollutant, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-18111,, 2024.