Fresenius' Journal of Analytical Chemistry

, Volume 350, Issue 1, pp 21-29

First online:

Mercury-cycling in surface waters and in the atmosphere — Species analysis for the investigation of transformation and transport properties of mercury

  • R. EbinghausAffiliated withGKSS Research Centre, Institute of Chemistry
  • , H. HintelmannAffiliated withGKSS Research Centre, Institute of Chemistry
  • , R. D. WilkenAffiliated withGKSS Research Centre, Institute of Chemistry

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The river Elbe has been one of the most contaminated rivers with regard to mercury for many years. In 1991 a length-profile has been measured for mercury and methylmercury (CH3Hg+) from Obristvi, Czech Republic, to the German bight. Total mercury has been measured by cold vapor atomic absorption spectrometry (CVAAS). The organo mercury compounds have been separated by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) connected on-line to an atomic fluorescence spectrometer (AFS) by a continuous flow-system. Total mercury up to 120 mg Hg+/kg and CH3Hg+ concentrations up to 130 μg CH3 Hg+/kg could be detected in special sites. The formation of CH3Hg+ in sediments can be caused besides the methylation of mercury, by sulphate reducing or methanogenic bacteria and transmethylation reactions with organometals. Atmospheric mercury concentrations have been measured at three different European sites. Samples have been collected on goldcoated glass balls or on quartz wool, respectively. After thermal desorption mercury has been determined using the two step amalgamation technique with AFS detection. Compared to natural background concentrations of total gaseous mercury (TGM), slightly increased levels could be detected at a rural site in Germany. This increase can probably be explained by long-range transport processes. Within the vicinity of a inactivated mercury production plant high concentrations of up to 13.5 ng/m3 particle associated mercury (Hgpart) have been detected. Consequently, dry deposition of mercury in the particulate form can intensify the total deposition flux close to Hg-emitting sources.