Formation of soluble mercury oxide coatings: transformation of elemental mercury in soils

Carrie L. Miller, David B. Watson, Brian Lester, Jane Y. Howe, Debra Helen Phillips, Feng He, Liyuan Liang, Eric M. Pierce

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    11 Citations (Scopus)
    269 Downloads (Pure)


    The impact of mercury (Hg) on human and ecological health has been known for decades. Although a treaty signed in 2013 by 147 nations regulates future large-scale mercury emissions, legacy Hg contamination exists worldwide and small scale releases will continue. The fate of elemental mercury, Hg(0), lost to the subsurface and its potential chemical transformation that can lead to changes in speciation and mobility are poorly understood. Here we show that Hg(0) beads interact with soil or manganese oxide solids and x-ray spectroscopic analysis indicates that the soluble mercury coatings are HgO. Dissolution studies show that after reacting with a composite soil, > 20 times more Hg is released into water from the coated beads than from a pure liquid mercury bead. An even larger, > 700 times, release occurs from coated Hg(0) beads that have been reacted with manganese oxide, suggesting that manganese oxides are involved in the transformation of the Hg(0) beads and creation of the soluble mercury coatings. Although the coatings may inhibit Hg(0) evaporation, the high solubility of the coatings can enhance Hg(II) migration away from the Hg(0)-spill site and result in potential changes in mercury speciation in the soil and increased mercury mobility.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)12105–12111
    Number of pages7
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
    Issue number20
    Early online date21 Sep 2015
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Formation of soluble mercury oxide coatings: transformation of elemental mercury in soils'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this