Mercury speciation, transformation, and transportation in soils, atmospheric flux, and implications for risk management: A critical review

David O'Connor, Deyi Hou, Yong Sik Ok, Jan Mulder, Lei Duan, Qingru Wu, Shuxiao Wang, Filip M.G. Tack, Jörg Rinklebe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) is a potentially harmful trace element in the environment and one of the World Health Organization's foremost chemicals of concern. The threat posed by Hg contaminated soils to humans is pervasive, with an estimated 86 Gg of anthropogenic Hg pollution accumulated in surface soils worldwide. This review critically examines both recent advances and remaining knowledge gaps with respect to cycling of mercury in the soil environment, to aid the assessment and management of risks caused by Hg contamination. Included in this review are factors affecting Hg release from soil to the atmosphere, including how rainfall events drive gaseous elemental mercury (GEM) flux from soils of low Hg content, and how ambient conditions such as atmospheric O3 concentration play a significant role. Mercury contaminated soils constitute complex systems where many interdependent factors, including the amount and composition of soil organic matter and clays, oxidized minerals (e.g. Fe oxides), reduced elements (e.g. S2−), as well as soil pH and redox conditions affect Hg forms and transformation. Speciation influences the extent and rate of Hg subsurface transportation, which has often been assumed insignificant. Nano-sized Hg particles as well as soluble Hg complexes play important roles in soil Hg mobility, availability, and methylation. Finally, implications for human health and suggested research directions are put forward, where there is significant potential to improve remedial actions by accounting for Hg speciation and transportation factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-761
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment International
Volume126
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May

Keywords

  • Elemental mercury
  • Hg(II)
  • Methyl mercury
  • Remediation
  • Soil pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)

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