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Anal Chim Acta. 2007 Aug 29;598(2):318-33. Epub 2007 Jul 22.

Competing ligand exchange-solid phase extraction method for the determination of the complexation of dissolved inorganic mercury (II) in natural waters.

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  • 1WIGS Lab, Department of Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, United States.


A method employing dual competitive ligand exchange followed by solid phase extraction (CLE-SPE) for characterizing the complexation of inorganic Hg(II) in natural waters is described. This method employs parallel use of two competing ligands: diethyldithiolcarbamate (DEDC), which forms hydrophobic complexes with Hg(II), and thiosalicylic acid (TSA), which forms hydrophilic complexes with Hg(II). Inorganic mercury complexed by natural and competing ligands are separated based on hydrophobicity using C18 solid phase extraction columns. Data modeling allows for the calculation of the concentration and conditional stability constants of natural ligands capable of complexing Hg(II) in both the operationally defined hydrophilic and hydrophobic fractions. The use of multiple ligand concentrations, and thus multiple analytical windows, to characterize different ligand classes within both of these two fractions is described. Studies of the kinetics of the ligand exchange involved, potential for changes in the stability of natural ligands during freezing and thawing, potential breakthrough during solid phase extraction, as well as the method's precision and estimation of error, are presented and discussed. Results from the application of the method to natural freshwaters demonstrated that in the limited samples collected over 99.99% of the ambient inorganic mercury is strongly complexed by ligands with conditional stability constants (K(HgL)(cond), Hg2+) on the order of 10(30), values similar to that of reduced sulfur ligands. At ambient conditions 85-90% of the mercury exists in hydrophobic complexes in these freshwaters, but strong Hg-binding ligands exist in both the hydrophobic and hydrophilic fractions.

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