Occurrence and transformation of organomercury in the Florida Everglades

Yuxiang Mao, Florida International University


In this study, a new method was developed based on aqueous phenylation, purge-and-trap preconcentration, gas chromatography (GC) separation, and detection by atomic fluorescence spectrometry (AFS) or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS). This technique is suitable for simultaneous determination of trace or ultratrace levels of CH3Hg+ and CH3CH2Hg+ in environmental samples. Method detection limits were 0.03 ng/L for both CH3Hg+ and CH3CH2Hg+ when AFS was used as the detector and 0.02 and 0.01 ng/L for CH3Hg+ and CH 3CH2Hg+ with ICPMS, respectively. The new method has the additional benefits of being free from interference by Cl - and dissolved organic matter. Using the method developed, both CH3Hg+ and CH3CH2Hg+ were detected in a number of soil and sediment samples collected from the Florida Everglades. The identity of CH3CH2Hg+ was verified by purge-and-trap-GC/MS analysis. The possibility of analytical artifact was excluded by using stable isotope tracer technique in combination with ICPMS detection. CH3CH 2Hg+ in the soil samples analyzed was at ng/g level, similar to that of CH3Hg+. The prevalence of CH 3CH2Hg+ in the soil of the Florida Everglades suggests that ethylation plays an important role in the geochemistry of Hg in this wetland. Soil incubation and sawgrass culture experiments using stable isotope tracers revealed that CH3Hg+ was mainly produced by microbial activities under anaerobic conditions, agreeing well with the general understanding of methylation mechanisms of Hg in the environment. Ethylation of Hg was not confirmed in these experiments, indicating that ethylation of Hg most probably follows different mechanisms in comparison to methylation. Further experiments revealed that trace levels of ethyllead species were able to transfer ethyl group to Hg in both deionized water and freshwater matrixes, producing CH3CH2Hg+. This might partially account for the occurrence of CH3CH2Hg+ in the relatively pristine environment of the Florida Everglades.

Subject Area

Biogeochemistry|Analytical chemistry|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Mao, Yuxiang, "Occurrence and transformation of organomercury in the Florida Everglades" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3393405.