Arsenic enrichment in sediments and beaches of Brazilian coastal waters: a review

Willy Baeyens, Nicolai Mirlean, Jochen Bundschuh, Niels de Winter, Paulo Baisch, Flavio Manoel Rodrigues da Silva Júnior, Yue Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


High concentrations of total arsenic (As), even above the Brazilian legislative threshold for marine sediments of70 mg kg−1, were found in beach sands and near-shore surface sediments. Twomechanisms (anthropogenic activitiesand sedimentary processes in the coastal waters) are responsible for this contamination. The anthropogenicimpact includes releases from metallurgical plants, phosphate fertilizer plants and gold and iron mining.In the coastal area sedimentary processes redistributed the As fromthe sediment into the porous structure of calcareousmarinealgae. These enriched calcareous algae are transported over time to the beach bywave action. Asin the Brazilian coastal environment, increased As levels were also observed in other coastal environments ofSouth America such as Rio Loa (Chile), Barbacoas Bay (Colombia) and the Southern Pampa region (Argentina).Finally, arsenic levels in fish from Brazilian coastal waters and North Sea, which is also an As-contaminatedarea, were compared. In both areas, short term health effects from fish consumption are not expected, but a lifetimecancer risk cannot be excluded.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • Arsenic
  • Latin America
  • Coastal environment
  • Enrichment mechanism
  • sources


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