Environmental fate of roxarsone in poultry litter. I. Degradation of roxarsone during composting

Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Apr 15;37(8):1509-14. doi: 10.1021/es026219q.


Roxarsone, 3-nitro-4-hydroxyphenylarsonic acid, is an organoarsenic compound that is used extensively in the feed of broiler poultry to control coccidial intestinal parasites, improve feed efficiency, and promote rapid growth. Nearly all the roxarsone in the feed is excreted unchanged in the manure. Poultry litter composed of the manure and bedding material has a high nutrient content and is used routinely as a fertilizer on cropland and pasture. Investigations were conducted to determine the fate of poultry-litter roxarsone in the environment Experiments indicated that roxarsone was stable in fresh dried litter; the primary arsenic species extracted with water from dried litter was roxarsone. However, when water was added to litter at about 50 wt % and the mixture was allowed to compost at 40 degrees C, the speciation of arsenic shifted from roxarsone to primarily arsenate in about 30 days. Increasing the amount of water increased the rate of degradation. Experiments also suggested that the degradation process most likely was biotic in nature. The rate of degradation was directly proportional to the incubation temperature; heat sterilization eliminated the degradation. Biotic degradation also was supported by results from enterobacteriaceae growth media that were inoculated with litter slurry to enhance the biotic processes and to reduce the concomitant abiotic effects from the complex litter solution. Samples collected from a variety of litter windrows in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Maryland also showed that roxarsone originally present had been converted to arsenate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fertilizers
  • Manure*
  • Poultry
  • Refuse Disposal*
  • Roxarsone / analysis
  • Roxarsone / metabolism*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Fertilizers
  • Manure
  • Roxarsone