Researchers at McGill University in Canada have shown that previously unknown mercury-containing nanoparticles exist in the air by using high-resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy imaging (HR-STEM). Their open-access paper appears in Scientific Reports.
Mercury is an important global toxic contaminant of concern that causes cognitive and neuromuscular damage in humans. It is ubiquitous in the environment and can travel in the air, in water, or adsorb to soils, snow, ice and sediment.
In their study, the team deployed an urban-air field campaign near a mercury point source, and provided further evidence for mercury nanoparticles and determined the extent to which these particles contain two long suspected forms of oxidized mercury (mercuric bromide and mercuric chloride) using mercury mass spectrometry (Hg-MS).
They estimated that airborne mercury aerosols may contribute to half of the oxidized mercury measured in wintertime Montréal urban air. These emerging mercury-containing nanoparticle contaminants will influence mercury deposition, speciation and other atmospheric and aquatic biogeochemical mercury processes including the bioavailability of oxidized mercury to biota and its transformation to neurotoxic organic mercury.
Avik. J. Ghoshdastidar & Parisa A. Ariya (2019) “The Existence of Airborne Mercury Nanoparticles” Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 10733 doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-47086-8