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Preliminary investigation of polymer-based in situ passive samplers for mercury and methylmercury


Taylor, V., K. Buckman, AND R. Burgess. Preliminary investigation of polymer-based in situ passive samplers for mercury and methylmercury. CHEMOSPHERE. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 234:806-814, (2019).


Passive samplers are a relatively new tool for measuring pollutants in the aquatic environment. For years, passive samplers have been available for industrial pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins as well as pesticides like DDT. Passive samplers let us know if these chemicals might cause toxicity to aquatic life or accumulate in seafood we may eat. This study investigated developing a passive sampler for the toxic metal mercury. The results were promising and suggest a passive sampler for mercury can be developed but it will require more research to optimize the tool.


Development of an in situ passive sampler for mercury (Hg), and its toxic form, methylmercury (MeHg), using simple polymer films, was explored for the potential to make an efficient and environmentally relevant monitoring tool for this widespread aquatic pollutant. The sulfur-containing polymers polysulfone (PS), and polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), were found to accumulate both MeHg and inorganic Hg (iHg), whereas polyethylene (PE) sorbed iHg but not MeHg, and polyoxymethylene (POM) and polyethersulfone (PES) films had low affinity for both Hg species. Uptake rates of Hg species into polymers were linear over two weeks, and dissolved organic matter at natural levels had no effect on partitioning of MeHg or iHg to the polymers. Sorption of MeHg to PS and PPS from three estuarine sediments correlated with uptake into diffusive gel-type samplers over time, and in PPS, with accumulation by the estuarine amphipod, Leptocheirus plumulosus. These polymers had lower MeHg adsorption rates, but are simpler to assemble, than diffusive gel-type samplers. Higher contaminant concentrations in polymer and gel-type samplers corresponded with porewater concentrations across sediments, suggesting they sample the dissolved MeHg pool, whereas MeHg levels in amphipods were more elevated with higher bulk sediment MeHg, which may reflect feeding strategy. While polymers with higher affinity for MeHg and iHg are needed for some environmental applications, this work suggests a simple sampling approach has potential for time-integrated, environmentally-meaningful MeHg monitoring in contaminated sediments.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 11/01/2019
Record Last Revised: 07/31/2019
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 345868