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Sci Total Environ. 2003 Mar 20;304(1-3):257-68.

Effects of a fulvic acid on the adsorption of mercury and cadmium on goethite.

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Man-Technology-Environmental Research Centre, Orebro University, 701 82 Orebro, Sweden.


The effects of an aquatic fulvic acid on the pH-dependent adsorption of Hg(II) and Cd(II) to particulate goethite (alpha-FeOOH) were studied in batch systems. The ionic medium consisted of 0.01 M HClO(4) and the total concentrations of mercury and cadmium were maintained at 10(-8) M with 203Hg and 109Cd as tracers. pH In the systems was varied in the range 3-10 by addition of HClO(4) and NaOH. All commercial chemicals were of analytical grade or better. An aquatic fulvic acid (20 ppm), previously isolated and characterised in detail, was used as a model for humic substances and its adsorption to goethite is included in this study. The adsorption of the fulvic acid (20 ppm) onto goethite decreased slowly from 90% at pH 3-7.5 to 10% at pH 10. In systems without fulvic acid the adsorption of mercury increased in a linear fashion from 10% at pH 3 to 70% at pH 10. In the presence of fulvic acid (20 ppm), the adsorption was almost quantitative in the intermediate pH range (pH 5-7), and exceeded 92% over the entire pH range. Thus, association between mercury and the fulvic acid enhanced adsorption in general although the largest impact was found at low pH. Adsorption of cadmium increased from nearly 0 to almost 100% at approximately pH 6. In the presence of fulvic acid, the adsorption increased below pH 7 and decreased above pH 7. The adsorption isotherm for mercury when the concentration was increased from 10(-8) to 1.8 x 10(-4) M showed a corresponding increase of K(d) (l/g) up to a total concentration at 10(-6) M. At higher mercury concentrations K(d) was lowered. In the presence of fulvic acid the corresponding relationship of K(d) was bi-modal, i.e. high values at low and intermediate concentrations of mercury. This behaviour suggests that in the absence of fulvic acid the adsorption follow the expected behaviour, i.e. adsorption sites with similar affinity for mercury. In the presence of fulvic acid, additional adsorption sites are available by the organic molecule (possibly sulfur groups) when it is associated to the goethite. The adsorption isotherm for cadmium indicates a lowering of K(d) at 10(-4) M. Cadmium had no competitive effect on mercury and vice versa. Zinc, however, affected the adsorption of cadmium but not the adsorption of mercury.

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