Uptake of atmospheric mercury by deionized water and aqueous solutions of inorganic salts at acidic, neutral and alkaline pH
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Mercury (Hg) is well known as a toxic environmental pollutant that is among the most highly bioconcentrated trace metals in the human food chain. The atmosphere is one of the most important media for the environmental cycling of mercury, since it not only receives mercury emitted from natural sources such as volcanoes and soil and water surfaces but also from anthropogenic sources such as fossil fuel combustion, mining and metal smelting. Although atmospheric mercury exists in different physical and chemical forms, as much as 90% can occur as elemental vapour Hg0, depending on the geographic location and time of year. Atmospheric mercury can be deposited to aquatic ecosystems through both wet (rain or snow) and dry (vapour adsorption and particulate deposition) processes. The purpose of the present study was to measure, under laboratory conditions, the rate of deposition of gaseous, elemental mercury (Hg0) to deionized water and to solutions of inorganic salt species of varying ionic strengths with a pH range of 2-12. In deionized water the highest deposition rates occurred at both low (pH 2) and high (pH 12). The addition of different species of salt of various concentrations for the most part had only slight effects on the absorption and retention of atmospheric Hg0. The low pH solutions of various salt concentrations and the high pH solutions of high salt concentrations tested in this study generally showed a greater tendency to absorb and retain atmospheric Hg0 than those at a pH closer to neutral.
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