Sources, toxicity, and remediation of mercury: an essence review

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) is a pollutant that poses a global threat, and it was listed as one of the ten leading ‘chemicals of concern’ by the World Health Organization in 2017. The review aims to summarize the sources of Hg, its combined effects on the ecosystem, and its remediation in the environment. The flow of Hg from coal to fly ash (FA), soil, and plants has become a serious concern. Hg chemically binds to sulphur-containing components in coal during coal formation. Coal combustion in thermal power plants is the major anthropogenic source of Hg in the environment. Hg is taken up by plant roots from contaminated soil and transferred to the stem and aerial parts. Through bioaccumulation in the plant system, Hg moves into the food chain, resulting in potential health and ecological risks. The world average Hg concentrations reported in coal and FA are 0.01–1 and 0.62 mg/kg, respectively. The mass of Hg accumulated globally in the soil is estimated to be 250–1000 Gg. Several techniques have been applied to remove or minimize elevated levels of Hg from FA, soil, and water (soil washing, selective catalytic reduction, wet flue gas desulphurization, stabilization, adsorption, thermal treatment, electro-remediation, and phytoremediation). Adsorbents such as activated carbon and carbon nanotubes have been used for Hg removal. The application of phytoremediation techniques has been proven as a promising approach in the removal of Hg from contaminated soil. Plant species such as Brassica juncea are potential candidates for Hg removal from soil.

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Acknowledgements

The first author is grateful to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD), Government of India, for providing scholarship. The authors also acknowledge the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad (India), for providing basic research facilities.

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Raj, D., Maiti, S.K. Sources, toxicity, and remediation of mercury: an essence review. Environ Monit Assess 191, 566 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-019-7743-2

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Keywords

  • Mercury
  • Coal combustion
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Adsorbents
  • Phytoremediation