Mercury Species in Urban Atmosphere

Mercury Species in Urban Atmosphere

J. Lu D. Prete  A. Al Hejami 

Department of Chemistry and Biology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

31 August 2016
| Citation



Mercury (Hg) in indoor and outdoor air in the city core at various heights above ground, and in indoor and outdoor air was measured in Toronto, the largest city in Canada. For the measurements of gaseous elemental mercury (GEM), a mercury-monitoring system (Tekran Inc., Toronto, Canada) was used. In addition, mercury associated with indoor and outdoor particulate matter in the city and surrounding area was also measured. Mercury in outdoor particulate matter (as total filterable p-Hg) was determined through thermal desorption gold pre-concentration CVAFS. The analysis of mercury in indoor particulate matter (as settled dusts) followed the USEPA Method 1631E and Appendix to Method 1631. The results show:

•   the higher GEM concentration values in outdoor air were more concentrated in the city core;

•   GEM in indoor air was much higher than in outdoor air;

•   the GEM values increased with increasing elevation;

•   emissions from vehicles and ground surfaces in the city were not the major sources of GEM to the urban atmosphere;

•   the concentrations of total filterable p-Hg in outdoor air ranged from 20.1 to 63.0 pg m−3 and those for indoor settled dusts ranged from 0.01 to 10.0 mg kg−1.

The findings suggest that mercury used in the indoor environment serves as a source of Hg to the urban atmosphere.


depth profiling, filterable mercury, gaseous elemental mercury, indoor settled dust, Toronto, urban atmosphere


[1] Sarikaya, S., Karcioglu, O., Ay, D., Cetin, A., Aktas, C. & Serinken, M., Acute mercury poisoning: a case report. BM C Emergency Medicine, 10(7), 2010.

[2] Bagnato, E., Allard, P., Parello, F., Aiuppa, A., Calabrese, S. & Hammouya, G., Mercury gas emissions from La Soufriere Volcano, Guadeloupe Island (Lesser Antilles). Chemical Geology, 266(3), pp. 276−282, 2009.

[3] Song, X., Cheng, I. & Lu, J., Annual atmospheric mercury species in Downtown Toronto, Canada. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 11(3), pp. 660–669, 2009.

[4] Goodarzi, F., Speciation and mass-balance of mercury from pulverized coal fired power plants burning western Canadian subbituminous coals. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 6(10), pp. 792−798, 2004.

[5] Schroeder, W.H. & Munthe, J., Atmospheric mercury - an overview. Atmospheric Environment, 32(5), pp. 809−822, 1998.

[6] Witt, M.L.I., Meheran, N., Mather, T.A., de Hoog, J.C.M. & Pyle, D.M., Aerosol trace metals, particle morphology and total gaseous mercury in the atmosphere of Oxford, UK. Atmospheric Environment, 44(12), pp. 1524−1538, 2010.

[7] St. Denis, M., Song, X., Lu, J. & Feng, F., Atmospheric gaseous elemental mercury in downtown Toronto. Atmospheric Environment, 40(21), pp. 4016–4024, 2006.

[8] Carpi, A. & Chen, Y. F., Gaseous elemental mercury fluxes in New York city. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 140(1), pp. 371–379, 2002.

[9] Liu, S.L., Nadim, F., Perkins, C., Carley, R.J., Hoag, G.E., Lin, Y.H. & Chen, L.T., Atmospheric mercury monitoring survey in Beijing, China. Chemosphere, 48(1), pp. 97−107, 2002.

[10] Brown, R.J.C., Goddard, S.L., Butterfield, D.M., Brown, A.S., Robins, C.,Mustoe, C.L. & McGhee, E.A., Ten years of mercury measurement at urban and industrial air quality monitoring stations in the UK. Atmospheric Environment, 109, pp. 1–8, 2015.

[11] Cheng, I., Lu, J. & Song, X., Studies of potential sources that contributed to atmospheric mercury in Toronto, Canada. Atmospheric Environment, 43(39), pp. 6145–6158, 2009.

[12] Cairns, E., Tharumakulasingam, K., Athar, M., Yousaf, M., Cheng I., Huang Y., Lu J. & Yap D., Source, concentration, and distribution of elemental mercury in the atmosphere in Toronto, Canada. Environmental Pollution, 159(8), pp. 2001–2008, 2011.

[13] National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). Environment Canada Website, Canada, available at (accessed April 2016).

[14] EPA-821-R-02-019. Method 1631E: Mercury in Water by Oxidation, Purge and Trap, and Cold Vapor Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry. August 2002.

[15] EPA-821-R-01-013. Appendix to Method 1631: Total Mercury in Tissue, Sludge, Sediment, and Soilby Acid Digestion and BrCl Oxidation. January 2001.

[16] Kellerhals, M., Beauchamp, S., Belzer, W., Blanchard, P., Froude, F., Harvey, B., McDonald, K., Pilote, M., Poissant, L., Puckett, K., Schroeder, B., Steffen, A. & Tordon, R., Temporal and spatial variability of total gaseous mercury in Canada: results from the Canadian Atmospheric Mercury Measurement Network (CAMNet). Atmospheric Environment, 37(7), pp. 1003–1011, 2003.

[17] Li, J., Yang, Y., Chen, H., Xiao, G. & Wei, S., Sourcing contributions of gaseous mercury in indoor and outdoor air in China. Environmental Forensics, 11(1), pp. 154−160, 2010.

[18] Lu, J.Y. & Schroeder, W.H., Sampling and determination of particulate mercury in ambient air: a review. Water Air and Soil Pollution, 112(3), pp. 279–295, 1998.

[19] Keeler, G., Atmospheric Mercury in the Great Lakes Region. UMAQL Newsletter issue 1. The University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, MI, 1996.

[20] Turner, A. & Hefzi, B., Levels and bioaccessibilities of metals in dusts from an arid environment. Water Air and Soil Pollution, 210, pp. 483–491, 2010.

[21] Rasmussen, P.E., Subramanian, K.S. & Jessiman, B.J., A multi-element profile of house dust in relation to exterior dust and soils in the city of Ottawa, Canada. Science of the Total Environment, 267, pp. 125–140, 2001.