Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 11773-11786, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
22 Sep 2016
Isotopic composition for source identification of mercury in atmospheric fine particles
Qiang Huang1, Jiubin Chen1, Weilin Huang2, Pingqing Fu3, Benjamin Guinot4, Xinbin Feng1, Lihai Shang1, Zhuhong Wang1, Zhongwei Wang1, Shengliu Yuan1, Hongming Cai1, Lianfang Wei3, and Ben Yu1 1SKLEG, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guiyang 550081, China
2Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
3LAPC, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China
4Laboratoire d'Aérologie UMR5560 CNRS-Université Toulouse 3, Toulouse, France
Abstract. The usefulness of mercury (Hg) isotopes for tracing the sources and pathways of Hg (and its vectors) in atmospheric fine particles (PM2.5) is uncertain. Here, we measured Hg isotopic compositions in 30 potential source materials and 23 PM2.5 samples collected in four seasons from the megacity Beijing (China) and combined the seasonal variation in both mass-dependent fractionation (represented by the ratio 202Hg ∕ 198Hg, δ202Hg) and mass-independent fractionation of isotopes with odd and even mass numbers (represented by Δ199Hg and Δ200Hg, respectively) with geochemical parameters and meteorological data to identify the sources of PM2.5-Hg and possible atmospheric particulate Hg transformation. All PM2.5 samples were highly enriched in Hg and other heavy metals and displayed wide ranges of both δ202Hg (−2.18 to 0.51 ‰) and Δ199Hg (−0.53 to 0.57 ‰), as well as small positive Δ200Hg (0.02 to 0.17 ‰). The results indicated that the seasonal variation in Hg isotopic composition (and elemental concentrations) was likely derived from variable contributions from anthropogenic sources, with continuous input due to industrial activities (e.g., smelting, cement production and coal combustion) in all seasons, whereas coal combustion dominated in winter and biomass burning mainly found in autumn. The more positive Δ199Hg of PM2.5-Hg in spring and early summer was likely derived from long-range-transported Hg that had undergone extensive photochemical reduction. The study demonstrated that Hg isotopes may be potentially used for tracing the sources of particulate Hg and its vectors in the atmosphere.

Citation: Huang, Q., Chen, J., Huang, W., Fu, P., Guinot, B., Feng, X., Shang, L., Wang, Z., Wang, Z., Yuan, S., Cai, H., Wei, L., and Yu, B.: Isotopic composition for source identification of mercury in atmospheric fine particles, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 11773-11786,, 2016.
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Short summary
Atmospheric airborne mercury is of particular concern because, once inhaled, both Hg and its vectors might have adverse effects on human beings. In this study, we attempted to identify the sources of PM2.5-Hg in Beijing, China, using Hg isotopic composition. Large range and seasonal variations in both mass-dependent and mass-independent fractionations of Hg isotopes in haze particles demonstrate the usefulness of Hg isotopes for directly tracing the sources and its vectors in the atmosphere.
Atmospheric airborne mercury is of particular concern because, once inhaled, both Hg and its...