Iodine chemistry in the water column of the Chesapeake Bay: Evidence for organic iodine forms

George W. Luther, Timothy Ferdelman, Charles H. Culberson, Joel Kostka, Jingfeng Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


During the summer of 1987, we collected and analysed Chesapeake Bay water samples for the inorganic iodine species: iodide (by cathodic-stripping squarewave voltammetry) and iodate (by differential pulse polarography); and total iodine (by hypochlorite oxidation of the seawater sample to iodate). The difference between the sum of the inorganic iodine species and the total iodine was significant for about one-third of the samples collected from the Bay. Thus, in these samples, a third (or more) 'new' form(s) of iodine was present. These samples were primarily from oxygen-saturated surface waters of high biological activity (primary productivity and bacterial processes). This 'new' form can make up as much as 70% of the total iodine. Waters containing low oxygen concentrations showed less of this 'new' form of iodine whereas anoxic and sulphidic bottom waters contained only iodide. This 'new' form of iodine is organic in nature and probably non-volatile. It may reside in the peptide and humic fractions. Only reduced iodine (iodide and organic iodine) was detected in waters from the northern section of the Bay, whereas only iodide and iodate were detected in the southern section of the Bay. In only two samples were iodide, iodate and the 'new' form of iodine found to coexist. Iodide and organic iodine are probably cycled in the surface waters of the northern section of the Bay via a combination of biogeochemical and photochemical processes which produce the reactive intermediates, molecular iodine and hypoiodous acid. These react quickly with reduced inorganic and organic compounds to maintain the reduced forms of iodine in the water column. Only total iodine is conservative throughout the estuary. The inorganic iodine forms can be used as geochemical tracers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-279
Number of pages13
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Chesapeake Bay
  • electrochemical methods
  • iodate
  • iodide
  • iodine chemistry
  • organic iodine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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