SEGH Articles

# Malcolm Brown: at the heart of SEGH

03 July 2016
It was with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Malcolm Brown in April after a long battle with illness. Malcolm worked at the heart of SEGH as the Secretary of the society

It was with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Malcolm Brown in April after a long battle with illness.  Malcolm was involved with SEGH for the past 30 years and in particular worked at the heart of SEGH as the Secretary of the society for many years, initially in the European Section and latterly as Secretary to the International Committee.  In this role, he was instrumental in maintaining momentum between annual board meetings and conferences in order to take forward key decision making in the development

of SEGH.  More recently, over the last 12-18 months, Malcolm was instrumental in applying to the UK Charities commission and, although unsuccessful, the experience contributed to his leadership in rewriting the SEGH constitution to ensure its relevance for today and the future.

Malcolm drew on his more than 30 years’ experience at the British Geological Survey (BGS) as a geologist mapping the UK and worked in the early days in the Geochemical Baseline Survey. For a number of years leading up to his retirement, Malcolm headed up the Business Development unit at BGS, working with a variety of academic, regulatory, government, industry and other societies to encourage their use of geoscientific data.  His scientific interests extended beyond “simple “ geology and  geochemistry through to linking environmental geochemistry to health issues, bringing to bear his skills in networking and promoting cross-disciplinary work, which is at the very heart of what SEGH is trying to accomplish.

Malcolm and his wife Anthea have together been at the heart of SEGH for many years, with Anthea acting as membership secretary.  They have both unselfishly, even after retirement, contributed significantly to SEGH through their tireless efforts in the organisation of administration and management activities, as well as support to the European conferences.  Their constant presence has provided continuity through a ‘corporate memory’, quietly steering SEGH through the regular changes of Presidents and Regional Chairs, riding out the sometimes strong differences of opinion and viewpoints with utmost diplomacy, making significant contributions to the defusing of tensions and the production of satisfying outcomes.  Malcolm has been described by many on the SEGH board as a true gentleman, fair, determined and dependable, keen to help others and enthusiastic in bringing people together from different science disciplines and interests, in particular encouraging ‘young blood’ to participate in the organisation of SEGH.

On behalf of the SEGH board, we express our condolences to Anthea and her family, but also our thanks for Malcolm’s contribution to the survival of SEGH over many years in what has been a competitive environment for similar Societies, but also in setting SEGH on a path of modernisation.

Michael Watts, Andrew Hursthouse and Alex Stewart

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## Science in theNews

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

• Fertilizer usage and cadmium in soils, crops and food 2018-06-23

### Abstract

Phosphate fertilizers were first implicated by Schroeder and Balassa (Science 140(3568):819–820, 1963) for increasing the Cd concentration in cultivated soils and crops. This suggestion has become a part of the accepted paradigm on soil toxicity. Consequently, stringent fertilizer control programs to monitor Cd have been launched. Attempts to link Cd toxicity and fertilizers to chronic diseases, sometimes with good evidence, but mostly on less certain data are frequent. A re-assessment of this “accepted” paradigm is timely, given the larger body of data available today. The data show that both the input and output of Cd per hectare from fertilizers are negligibly small compared to the total amount of Cd/hectare usually present in the soil itself. Calculations based on current agricultural practices are used to show that it will take centuries to double the ambient soil Cd level, even after neglecting leaching and other removal effects. The concern of long-term agriculture should be the depletion of available phosphate fertilizers, rather than the negligible contamination of the soil by trace metals from fertilizer inputs. This conclusion is confirmed by showing that the claimed correlations between fertilizer input and Cd accumulation in crops are not robust. Alternative scenarios that explain the data are presented. Thus, soil acidulation on fertilizer loading and the effect of Mg, Zn and F ions contained in fertilizers are considered using recent $$\hbox {Cd}^{2+}$$ , $$\hbox {Mg}^{2+}$$ and $$\hbox {F}^-$$ ion-association theories. The protective role of ions like Zn, Se, Fe is emphasized, and the question of Cd toxicity in the presence of other ions is considered. These help to clarify difficulties in the standard point of view. This analysis does not modify the accepted views on Cd contamination by airborne delivery, smoking, and industrial activity, or algal blooms caused by phosphates.

• Effects of conversion of mangroves into gei wai ponds on accumulation, speciation and risk of heavy metals in intertidal sediments 2018-06-23

### Abstract

Mangroves are often converted into gei wai ponds for aquaculture, but how such conversion affects the accumulation and behavior of heavy metals in sediments is not clear. The present study aims to quantify the concentration and speciation of heavy metals in sediments in different habitats, including gei wai pond, mangrove marsh dominated by Avicennia marina and bare mudflat, in a mangrove nature reserve in South China. The results showed that gei wai pond acidified the sediment and reduced its electronic conductivity and total organic carbon (TOC) when compared to A. marina marsh and mudflat. The concentrations of Cd, Cu, Zn and Pb at all sediment depths in gei wai pond were lower than the other habitats, indicating gei wai pond reduced the fertility and the ability to retain heavy metals in sediment. Gei wai pond sediment also had a lower heavy metal pollution problem according to multiple evaluation methods, including potential ecological risk coefficient, potential ecological risk index, geo-accumulation index, mean PEL quotients, pollution load index, mean ERM quotients and total toxic unit. Heavy metal speciation analysis showed that gei wai pond increased the transfer of the immobilized fraction of Cd and Cr to the mobilized one. According to the acid-volatile sulfide (AVS) and simultaneously extracted metals (SEM) analysis, the conversion of mangroves into gei wai pond reduced values of ([SEM] − [AVS])/f oc , and the role of TOC in alleviating heavy metal toxicity in sediment. This study demonstrated the conversion of mangrove marsh into gei wai pond not only reduced the ecological purification capacity on heavy metal contamination, but also enhanced the transfer of heavy metals from gei wai pond sediment to nearby habitats.

• Cytotoxicity induced by the mixture components of nickel and poly aromatic hydrocarbons 2018-06-22

### Abstract

Although particulate matter (PM) is composed of various chemicals, investigations regarding the toxicity that results from mixing the substances in PM are insufficient. In this study, the effects of low levels of three PAHs (benz[a]anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene, and dibenz[a,h]anthracene) on Ni toxicity were investigated to assess the combined effect of Ni–PAHs on the environment. We compared the difference in cell mortality and total glutathione (tGSH) reduction between single Ni and Ni–PAHs co-exposure using A549 (human alveolar carcinoma). In addition, we measured the change in Ni solubility in chloroform that was triggered by PAHs to confirm the existence of cation–π interactions between Ni and PAHs. In the single Ni exposure, the dose–response curve of cell mortality and tGSH reduction were very similar, indicating that cell death was mediated by the oxidative stress. However, 10 μM PAHs induced a depleted tGSH reduction compared to single Ni without a change in cell mortality. The solubility of Ni in chloroform was greatly enhanced by the addition of benz[a]anthracene, which demonstrates the cation–π interactions between Ni and PAHs. Ni–PAH complexes can change the toxicity mechanisms of Ni from oxidative stress to others due to the reduction of Ni2+ bioavailability and the accumulation of Ni–PAH complexes on cell membranes. The abundant PAHs contained in PM have strong potential to interact with metals, which can affect the toxicity of the metal. Therefore, the mixture toxicity and interactions between diverse metals and PAHs in PM should be investigated in the future.