Elemental iodine is produced in Japan from underground brine (fossil salt water). Carbon steel pipes in an iodine production facility at Chiba, Japan, for brine conveyance were found to corrode more rapidly than those in other facilities. The corroding activity of iodide-containing brine from the facility was examined by immersing carbon steel coupons in "native" and "filter-sterilized" brine samples. The dissolution of iron from the coupons immersed in native brine was threefold to fourfold higher than that in the filter-sterilized brine. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analyses revealed that iodide-oxidizing bacteria (IOBs) were predominant in the coupon-containing native brine samples. IOBs were also detected in a corrosion deposit on the inner surface of a corroded pipe. These results strongly suggested the involvement of IOBs in the corrosion of the carbon steel pipes. Of the six bacterial strains isolated from a brine sample, four were capable of oxidizing iodide ion (I(-)) into molecular iodine (I(2)), and these strains were further phylogenetically classified into two groups. The iron-corroding activity of each of the isolates from the two groups was examined. Both strains corroded iron in the presence of potassium iodide in a concentration-dependent manner. This is the first report providing direct evidence that IOBs are involved in iron corrosion. Further, possible mechanisms by which IOBs corrode iron are discussed.
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