An innovative technique for rapid identification and quantification of mercury (Hg) species in soils and sediments was developed using a direct mercury analyser. Speciation was performed by the continuous thermal-desorption of mercury species (temperature range 76-770°C), in combination with atomic absorption spectrophotometry detection. Standard materials HgCl(2), Hg bound to humic acids and HgS were characterized; thermo-desorption curves of each material showed a well-resolved peak at specific temperature intervals: 125-225°C, 100-250°C and 225-325°C, respectively. Certified reference materials (CRM) BCR() 142R, RTC() CRM 021, NRC() MESS-3 and PACS-2 were tested. Although the CRM were not certified for Hg species, the sum of Hg species obtained was compared to the certified value for total Hg; recoveries were 92%, 100%, 97%, and 95%, respectively. One sediment and three soil samples from mercury contaminated areas (total Hg concentrations 0.067-126mgkg(-1)) were analysed as well. It was possible to compare peaks of thermo-desorption curves from the samples with those from standard materials and thereby distinguish different Hg species in solid samples. Generally, Hg was present as bound to chloride or humic substances. The precision was satisfactory, as reflected by the relative standard deviations determined for standards and certified reference materials (<11%; n=10).
- thermo-desorption technique
- mercury speciation