, Volume 80, Issue 1-4, pp 1325-1329

Volatilization of demethylmercury and elemental mercury from river Elbe floodplain soils

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Abstract

It has been shown that an untreated mercury-polluted floodplain soil (containing 10 μg/g per dry weight (d.w.) total Hg and 12 ng/g (d.w.) monomethylmercury compounds (MMM)) of the river Elbe in Northern Germany contains both dimethylmercury (DMM) and elemental mercury (Hg°). This is the first time ever that DMM has been detected in unmodified soils. A novel purge- and-trap-technique involving a sequential thermodesorption-separation of the two species after trapping on a carbon molecular sieve (CMS) has been developed that allows the determination of the two species DMM and Hg° from aqueous solutions or soil samples by GC-CVAFS. The compounds' identities as Hg-species were confirmed by GC-ICP/MS. A DMM-concentration of 740 pg/g (d.w.) was determined in the soil; the Hg°-concentration was found to be at least four times larger, but could not yet be quantified. Since no precautions against losses via evapoartion were taken during sampling and storage, the original concentrations were probably much higher. Both DMM and Hg° are easily purged with N2 from soils as well as from soil suspensions, indicating that the two species may readily evaporate from those soils under natural conditions. The amount of DMM determined in the soil suspension was significantly lower (80 pg/g (d.w.)) compared to that in the original soil sample, suggesting that DMM might not be stable under these conditions. Also, it was shown that in natural samples, MMM can be converted into DMM in the presence of sulfide, at S2−-levels as low as 100 μg/g.