, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 221-234
Date: 03 Aug 2010

Experimental investigation of the scavenging of gaseous mercury by sea salt aerosol

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Sea salt aerosol may be an important sink for reactive gaseous mercury (RGM) in the marine boundary layer, reducing ambient RGM concentrations and transferring the mercury (Hg) to the oceans and coastal ecosystems. The goal of this study was to determine the affinity of gaseous mercury for sea salt aerosol (SSA) by conducting adsorption experiments with sea salt-coated sampling denuders. In the first set of experiments, ambient outdoor air was passed through denuders coated with either KCl, as in the widely accepted method to sample RGM, or with NaCl, a primary component of sea salt aerosols. On the one sampling day in which RGM was above the MDL, the NaCl coated denuders removed Hg from the ambient air, equivalent to 87% of the RGM in the air (as determined by KCl denuders). For the second set of experiments HgCl2 generated in the laboratory was passed through denuders coated with KCl and either NaCl or sea salt. The NaCl denuders collected an average of 99 ± 16% of the mercury that the KCl denuders collected. Newly coated sea salt denuders collected 88 ± 17% of the amount of mercury that the KCl denuders collected, but interestingly the sea salt denuders capacity decreased with repeated use. These experiments demonstrate that HgCl2, a major component of RGM has a strong affinity for NaCl and sea salt and is therefore likely to be scavenged by SSA. This study adds to the growing evidence that RGM is scavenged by sea salt aerosols and therefore more quickly deposited to the ocean and coastal environment.