Dark oxidation of dissolved and liquid elemental mercury in aquatic environments

Marc Amyot, Francois M. M. Morel, Parisa A. Ariya

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Elemental mercury (Hg0) can be found in liquid or dissolved forms in aquatic systems. Whereas dissolved Hg0 is measured in virtually all aquatic systems, liquid Hg0 droplets are mainly observed at poorly lit sediment/water interfaces of ecosystems with local point sources such as hydrothermal vents, gold extraction sites, and near industrial facilities. Here, we report that, in the dark, liquid and dissolved forms of Hg behave differently with respect to their oxidation. Liquid Hg0 is rapidly oxidized in oxygenated solution in the presence of chloride. Liquid Hg0 oxidation rates are positively correlated with chloride concentrations and droplet surface area. When liquid Hg is removed from solution, the oxidation stops even though the solution is still saturated with dissolved Hg0. Liquid Hg0 droplets in oxygenated marine or brackish environments should be oxidized and release Hg2+ to solution. In freshwaters or anoxic seawater, liquid Hg will dissolve releasing Hgaq0 which, itself, will slowly oxidize.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-114
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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