Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Nov 6;46(21):11653-9. doi: 10.1021/es3015327. Epub 2012 Oct 25.

Mercury methylation rates for geochemically relevant Hg(II) species in sediments.

Author information

Department of Chemistry, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden.


Monomethylmercury (MeHg) in fish from freshwater, estuarine, and marine environments is a major global environmental issue. Mercury levels in biota are mainly controlled by the methylation of inorganic mercuric mercury (Hg(II)) to MeHg in water, sediments, and soils. There is, however, a knowledge gap concerning the mechanisms and rates of methylation of specific geochemical Hg(II) species. Such information is crucial for a better understanding of variations in MeHg concentrations among ecosystems and, in particular, for predicting the outcome of currently proposed measures to mitigate mercury emissions and reduce MeHg concentrations in fish. To fill this knowledge gap we propose an experimental approach using Hg(II) isotope tracers, with defined and geochemically important adsorbed and solid Hg(II) forms in sediments, to study MeHg formation. We report Hg(II) methylation rate constants, k(m), in estuarine sediments which span over 2 orders of magnitude depending on chemical form of added tracer: metacinnabar (β-(201)HgS(s)) < cinnabar (α-(199)HgS(s)) < Hg(II) reacted with mackinawite (≡FeS-(202)Hg(II)) < Hg(II) bonded to natural organic matter (NOM-(196)Hg(II)) < a typical aqueous tracer ((198)Hg(NO(3))(2)(aq)). We conclude that a combination of thermodynamic and kinetic effects of Hg(II) solid-phase dissolution and surface desorption control the Hg(II) methylation rate in sediments and cause the large observed differences in k(m)-values. The selection of relevant solid-phase and surface-adsorbed Hg(II) tracers will therefore be crucial to achieving biogeochemically accurate estimates of ambient Hg(II) methylation rates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Chemical Society
Loading ...
Support Center