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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(2), 138; doi:10.3390/ijerph14020138

Toward an Assessment of the Global Inventory of Present-Day Mercury Releases to Freshwater Environments

Department of Environmental Sciences, Jožef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana 1000, Slovenia
Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) Secretariat, Oslo N-0349, Norway
Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Artisanal Gold Council, Victoria, BC V8W 1B9, Canada
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8P 5C2, Canada
Arctic Centre, University of Groningen, Groningen 9718CW, The Netherlands
Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, CT 06340, USA
Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0E8, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 November 2016 / Accepted: 24 January 2017 / Published: 1 February 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mercury and Health: Current Perspectives and Future Directions)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1745 KB, uploaded 14 February 2017]   |  


Aquatic ecosystems are an essential component of the biogeochemical cycle of mercury (Hg), as inorganic Hg can be converted to toxic methylmercury (MeHg) in these environments and reemissions of elemental Hg rival anthropogenic Hg releases on a global scale. Quantification of effluent Hg releases to aquatic systems globally has focused on discharges to the global oceans, rather than contributions to freshwater systems that affect local exposures and risks associated with MeHg. Here we produce a first-estimate of sector-specific, spatially resolved global aquatic Hg discharges to freshwater systems. We compare our release estimates to atmospheric sources that have been quantified elsewhere. By analyzing available quantitative and qualitative information, we estimate that present-day global Hg releases to freshwater environments (rivers and lakes) associated with anthropogenic activities have a lower bound of ~1000 Mg· a−1. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) represents the single largest source, followed by disposal of mercury-containing products and domestic waste water, metal production, and releases from industrial installations such as chlor-alkali plants and oil refineries. In addition to these direct anthropogenic inputs, diffuse inputs from land management activities and remobilization of Hg previously accumulated in terrestrial ecosystems are likely comparable in magnitude. Aquatic discharges of Hg are greatly understudied and further constraining associated data gaps is crucial for reducing the uncertainties in the global biogeochemical Hg budget. View Full-Text
Keywords: mercury, freshwater systems, releases, inventory, global cycling mercury, freshwater systems, releases, inventory, global cycling

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Kocman, D.; Wilson, S.J.; Amos, H.M.; Telmer, K.H.; Steenhuisen, F.; Sunderland, E.M.; Mason, R.P.; Outridge, P.; Horvat, M. Toward an Assessment of the Global Inventory of Present-Day Mercury Releases to Freshwater Environments. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 138.

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