Development of marine water quality criteria for inorganic mercury in China based on the retrievable toxicity data and a comparison with relevant criteria or guidelines

  • Qiang Liu
  • Xiaoqun Xu
  • Jiangning Zeng
  • Wei Huang
  • Xudan Xu
  • Lu ShouEmail author
  • Quanzhen Chen


The development of marine water quality criteria (WQC) in China has been insufficient because data on the toxicity of pollutants for marine organisms based on the species sensitivity distribution (SSD) method are lacking. The Chinese aquatic environmental quality standards, including those for seawater, were derived from the developed countries. Therefore, establishing Chinese marine WQC is crucial for identifying the sensitivity of marine species in China and will improve their protection from threats. Mercury (Hg) is one of the primary pollutants commonly exceeding Chinese seawater quality standards. Several countries have developed their marine WQC for inorganic Hg in the past decades, but no study has been conducted in China. In this study, 45 acute toxicity and 14 chronic toxicity data of inorganic Hg on the marine species which inhabit in China were obtained mainly from the ECOTOX database, the CNKI, and the Google Scholar. The acute and chronic hazardous concentrations for 5% of the species (HC5) were calculated based on the best-fit distribution model Sweibull. The criteria for maximum and continuous concentrations of 1.30 and 0.66 μg/L, respectively, for inorganic Hg to protect marine organisms in China were derived by halving the HC5 values. The criteria were comparable to those of the United States, Australia, and the European Union countries, indicating the general applicability of WQCs developed based on the classical SSD method using different species groups. This study may provide valuable information for assessing marine ecological risk in China.


Marine water quality criteria Species sensitivity distribution Inorganic mercury Criterion maximum concentration Criterion continuous concentration China 



This work was funded by the National Marine Public Welfare Research Project of China (No. 201505008-2), the Grants from Scientific Research Fund of the Second Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration (No. JG1526, JG1616, and JG1718), and the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41306112).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary Information


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Qiang Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xiaoqun Xu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jiangning Zeng
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Wei Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xudan Xu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lu Shou
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Quanzhen Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Second Institute of OceanographyMinistry of Natural ResourcesHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Marine Ecosystem and BiogeochemistryState Oceanic AdministrationHangzhouChina
  3. 3.Ocean College of Zhejiang UniversityZhoushanChina

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