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Speciation Analysis of Arsenic in Honey


Honey boasts invaluable nourishing, healing, and prophylactic properties rooted in its chemical composition. As a therapeutic foodstuff, honey must be devoid of hazardous compounds. Notably, honey serves as a marker for environmental pollution, with arsenic being a prominent concern due to its toxicity, varying significantly based on its species. This complexity underscores the necessity for speciation analysis to enable precise risk assessment.

The New Study:

Recently, researchers from Poland unveiled groundbreaking findings on arsenic concentration in honey samples collected from Poland and Ukraine, a pioneering endeavor in this domain. They devised a method to discern five arsenic species, including the highly toxic As(III), As(V), dimethylarsinic acid (DMA), methylarsonic acid (MMA), and the innocuous arsenobetain.

Their innovative separation technique, leveraging Ion Chromatography (IC) with gradient elution, coupled an anion exchange column with an anion–cation exchange guard column to enhance separation efficacy. The mobile phase, comprising ammonium nitrate and methanol, underwent pH adjustment with ammonia.

Honey samples underwent dilution with water and heated to 90°C for an hour to extract arsenic species, yielding high recovery values. Remarkably, total arsenic concentrations indicated the efficacy of water extraction.

Achieving separation of the five arsenic species within a concise timeframe of less than 14 minutes, the study unearthed predominantly inorganic arsenic species with varying As(III)/As(V) ratios contingent on the sampling region. Notably, MMA was solely detected in Ukrainian honey samples, while DMA featured in only one Polish honey sample.

However, the authors acknowledge their analysis solely addressed water-soluble arsenic, precluding direct comparison with existing results, given the absence of prior speciation data.


An important consideration arises regarding the susceptibility of As(III) to oxidation to As(V) during sample preparation, particularly under elevated temperatures. Thus, the reliability of As(III)/As(V) ratios in honey samples post-heating to 80°C for an hour warrants scrutiny. Regrettably, the authors did not explore species stability under the conditions of their sample preparation, leaving this aspect unaddressed.
Michael Sperling

The original publication

Dorota Jakkielska, Marcin Frankowski, Anetta Zioła-Frankowska, Speciation analysis of arsenic in honey using HPLC-ICP-MS and health risk assessment of water-soluble arsenic, J. Hazard. Mater.,  471 (2024) 134364. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2024.134364

Used Instrumentation:

Shimadzu LC-20 Ai pump

Related Studies (newest first):

N.M. Zaric, S. Braeuer, W. Goessler, Arsenic speciation analysis in honey bees for environmental monitoring. J. Hazard. Mater., 432 (2022) 128614. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2022.128614.

A. Mara, S. Deidda, M. Caredda, M. Ciulu, M. Deroma, E. Farinini, Multi-elemental analysis as a tool to ascertain the safety and the origin of beehive products: development, validation, and application of an ICP-MS method on four unifloral honeys produced in Sardinia, Italy. Molecules, 27/6 (2022) 2009. DOI: 10.3390/molecules27062009.

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