For a survey of Illinois soils, 101 cores had been collected and analyzed to determine the current and background elemental compositions of Illinois soils. Mercury and other elements were determined in six samples per core, including a surface sample from each core. The mean mercury content in the surface samples was 33 ± 20 μg/kg soil, and the background content was 20 ± 9 μg/kg. The most probable sources of mercury in these soils were the parent material, and wet and dry deposition of Hg0 and Hg2+ derived from coal-burning power plants, other industrial plants, and medical and municipal waste incinerators. Mercury-bearing sewage sludge or other fertilizers applied to agricultural fields could have been the local sources of mercury. Although the mercury content correlated with organic carbon content or clay content in individual cores, when all the data were considered, there was no strong correlation between mercury and either the organic carbon or the clay-size content.
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