Plate tectonics influence on geogenic arsenic cycling: From primary sources to global groundwater enrichment

Abhijit Mukherjee, Saibal Gupta, Poulomee Coomar, Alan E. Fryar, Stephane Guillot, Swati Verma, Prosun Bhattacharya, Jochen Bundschuh, Laurent Charlet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


More than 100 million people around the world are endangered by geogenic arsenic (As)in groundwater, residing in sedimentary aquifers. However, not all sedimentary aquifers are groundwater As enriched, and the ultimate source of As in enriched aquifer sediments is yet-unknown, globally. A reconnaissance of the major aquifers suggests that major As enriched aquifers are predictably systematic on a global scale, existing in sedimentary foreland basins in the vicinity of modern or ancient orogenic systems. In conformity with the Principle of Uniformitarianism, we demonstrate that the groundwater As comes from magmatic arcs (primary source)in present (e.g. Andes)or ancient (e.g. Himalaya)continental convergent margins of some of the most prominent orogenic systems across the globe, and ends up in sediments (secondary source)in adjoining foreland or related basins that eventually act as aquifers. These arc magmas scavenge As while rising through the deep continental crust. Erosion of such orogens ultimately increases the bulk As content in sediments of adjoining basins, leading to groundwater As enrichment in downstream aquifers. Such As-polluted aquifers are eventually extensively used for groundwater exploitation, for drinking and other human purposes. Surface geological and biogeochemical processes, like redox reactions, are conducive to such groundwater As enrichment. We suggest this model by integrating our study of long-time observations in Himalayan and Andean basin aquifers, and generalizing 63 major aquifers across the globe, to demonstrate the source-to-sink transport of As, thereby delineating it's geogenic cycling in the subsurface. This work outlines the specifics of the mechanisms that would drive the processes of groundwater As enrichment across spatio-temporal scales, i.e. tectonic-scale taking place over millions of years on continental-scale and groundwater pollution taking place at human time-scales on village to household scale. Thus, in this work, we demonstrate a direct evidence of connectivity between global geological processes and individual human health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-807
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Sep 15 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Arsenic
  • Groundwater
  • Health
  • Magma
  • Orogeny
  • Tectonism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Plate tectonics influence on geogenic arsenic cycling: From primary sources to global groundwater enrichment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this