Science and Technology Seminar

Date: 13/11/2013 Time: 15:00-16:00 Location: College Building C122

Speaker: Huw Jones (Middlesex University)

Title: Arsenic poisoning: detection, speciation and remediation


Arsenic compounds have historically been used intentionally as poisons. Today, due to vastly improved forensic techniques, intended incidents of poisoning by arsenic are rare, yet arsenic is classified as being the biggest and most important chemical contaminant of drinking water on a global scale. The World Health Organisation has described the situation that arose in Bangladesh as “the largest case of mass poisoning in human history”. The lecture introduces historical aspects of arsenic poisoning, focussing on its method of detection, its speciation (which chiefly governs its toxicity), the current situation in affected regions and methods to remediate and mitigate the problem in drinking water.


Huw Jones is a graduate in Environmental Chemistry from King’s College London. Here he subsequently worked with the Water Research Centre on the effects of heavy metals on nitrogen fixation in agricultural soils via the agency of Rhizobium bacteria. At Middlesex University, where he obtained his PhD, he has investigated the use of macroinvertebrate tissues and developed novel field biomonitoring techniques to assess the ecotoxicology of hydrocarbons in freshwater. Since then he has worked as a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer in a range of environment and human health issues, specialising in applying his knowledge of chemistry and statistical analysis. He worked with British Airports Authority at London’s Heathrow Airport on the development of reed-bed systems for the treatment of pollutants associated with runway runoff and on similar systems for road runoff treatment at the Newbury by-pass. Since then he has worked with the lead crystal glass industry on risk associated with lead and the use of substitute metals including barium and bismuth. He continues to collaborate with the ceramics industry on toxicity of respirable crystalline silica. He has also worked on the biokinetics of aluminium and plutonium in the human body. A Fellow of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, he is now involved in facilitating remediation/mitigation strategies for arsenic contamination in drinking water, a major public health issue in many countries.