Atmospheric mercury levels in the Slovak Republic
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Total mercury concentrations (as a sum of vapor and particulate mercury) were measured in 24-h samples of ambient air in 20 different localities of the Slovak Republic eight times during the period 1996-1997. Vapor mercury was analyzed on site by atomic fluorescence with amalgamation technique. Particulate mercury was determined by vapor hydride atomic absorption spectrometry after wet digestion of filters with particulate air samples. The results showed that 34% of the 160 individual total mercury concentrations exceeded 5 ng/m3--the ambient air quality guideline value recommended by the WHO. The range of total mercury concentrations in the ambient air of Slovakia was: 1.13-3.98 ng/m3 (geom. mean 2.63) in the background area; 2.25-5.27 ng/m3 (geom. mean 3.64) in the agricultural areas; 1.73-20.53 ng/m3 (geom. mean 4.57) in the urban areas; and 1.53-39.85 ng/m3 (geom. mean 5.28) in the industrial areas. The highest mercury levels occurred in areas with metallurgical industry and coal combustion. The predominant form of mercury present in air was vapor mercury. The particulate fraction of mercury in ambient air (as a percentage of total mercury) varied widely from 0.4% to 42.1% (geom. mean = 4.4%). This fraction was lower in agricultural areas (2.3%) than in urban areas (5.3%). Although the atmospheric vapor mercury concentrations were slightly higher in summer than in winter, a direct correlation of vapor mercury concentrations and ambient air temperature was not found. Furthermore, the particulate mercury concentrations did not correlate with total particulate levels.
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