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Chemistry and Ecology
Year: 2010  |  Volume: 26  |  Issue: 5  |  Page No.: 371 - 383

Sorption of cadmium(II) and copper(II) by soil humic acids: temperature effects and sorption heterogeneity

Andrew W. Rate    

Abstract: Sorption by humic acids is known to modify the bioavailability and toxicity of metals in soils and aquatic systems. The sorption of cadmium(II) and copper(II) to two soil humic acids was measured at pH 6.0 using ion-selective electrode potentiometric titration at different temperatures. Sorption reactions were studied with all components in aqueous solution, or with the humates in suspension. Adsorption reactions were described using a multiple site-binding model, and a model assuming a continuous log-normal distribution of adsorption constants. Adsorption of Cu2+ was more favourable than adsorption of Cd2+. The log-normal distribution model provided the closest fit to observations and allowed parameterisation of adsorption data using a mean adsorption constant (log Kμ). Sorption of Cd2+ to dissolved humic acids increased slightly in extent and sorption affinity with increasing temperature, but the effect was small (log Kμ 2.96-3.15). A slightly greater temperature effect occurred for sorption of Cd2+ to solid-phase humic acids (log Kμ 1.30-2.08). Sorption of copper(II) to both aqueous- and colloidal-phase humates showed more pronounced temperature dependence, with extent of sorption, and sorption affinity, increasing with increasing temperature (log Kμ 3.4-4.9 in solution and 1.4-4.5 in suspension). The weaker adsorption of Cd2+ than Cu2+, and smaller temperature effects for dissolved humates than suspended humates, suggested that the observed temperature effects had a kinetic, rather than thermodynamic, origin. For any metal-to-ligand ratio, free metal ion concentration, and by inference metal bioavailability, decreased with increasing temperature. The consistency of the data with kinetic rather than thermodynamic control of metal bioavailability suggests that equilibrium modelling approaches to estimating bioavailability may be insufficient.

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