Mercury isotopes used for contamination source identification (MC-ICP-MS)

Mercury isotopes used for contamination source identification (MC-ICP-MS)

Mercury (Hg) is an element in the natural environment that poses considerable health risks to humans. Elevated Hg contents found in mining site and adjacent regions lead to large-scale contamination to the environment. Environmental studies have used variations in the δ202Hg signature as a tracer to distinguish between different Hg sources and understand the relevant chemical transformation processes.

In this study, downstream sediment samples have been collected in a Hg mining area in southwest China and analysed on a Nu Plasma HR instrument using a continuous flow cold-vapour generation (CVG) system coupled with a desolvation unit for Hg and Tl introduction, respectively. Benefiting from the simultaneous ion detection and very stable inter-element mass bias stability on the Nu Plasma instrument, an overall average and uncertainty of δ202Hg = 0.53 ± 0.10‰ (2 sigma, n=9) has been achieved. The plot of δ202Hg (‰) vs the 1/HgT (μg/g) (HgT: total mercury) reveals the mixing of three different Hg sources.

Data source: Yin et al., Chemical Geology, 2012