European whelks (Buccinum undatum) have shown to accumulate high levels of arsenic. Since the accumulation process is not well understood it is necessary to gain information about the geographical variability of the arsenic concentration in them. Here we show that the mean arsenic concentrations of the whelks are site specific and vary by a factor of 3.5 in ten different geographical locations. At fishing grounds where whelks exhibited low arsenic concentrations the arsenic concentration increased linearly with size, whereas the whelks with high arsenic levels from a different location showed no correlation. Although the overall arsenic concentration in the whelks differed between 45 and 655 mg kg(-1) d.w., the inorganic arsenic concentration did not exceed 0.4 mg kg(-1) d.w. The main arsenic compound is arsenobetaine, which is widely considered as non-toxic. The exposure to toxic inorganic arsenic when eating whelks cannot be estimated from their size or their total arsenic concentration.
- dietary exposure
- commom whelk