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Field method for preservation of total mercury in waters, including those associated with artisanal scale gold mining †

King, David C. P. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8881-9154, Watts, Michael J. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0379-8401, Hamilton, Elliott M. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9437-5238, Mortimer, Robert ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1292-8861, Coffey, Mike, Osano, Odipo ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9542-9798, Ondayo, Maureene Auma and Di Bonito, Marcello (2024) Field method for preservation of total mercury in waters, including those associated with artisanal scale gold mining †. Analytical Methods, 16 (17). pp. 2669-2677.

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Analysis of mercury (Hg) in natural water samples has routinely been impractical in many environments, for example, artisanal and small-scale gold mines (ASGM), where difficult conditions make monitoring of harmful elements and chemicals used in the processes highly challenging. Current sampling methods require the use of hazardous or expensive materials, and so difficulties in sample collection and transport are elevated. To solve this problem, a solid-phase extraction-based method was developed for the sampling and preservation of dissolved Hg in natural water samples, particularly those found around ASGM sites. Recoveries of 85% ± 10% total Hg were obtained during 4 weeks of storage in refrigerated (4 °C, dark) and unrefrigerated (16 °C, dark) conditions, and from a representative river water spiked to 1 μg L−1 Hg2+, 94% ± 1% Hg recovery was obtained. Solid-phase extraction loading flow rates were tested at 2, 5, and 10 mL min−1 with no breakthrough of Hg, and sorbent stability showed no breakthrough of Hg up to 2 weeks after functionalisation. The method was deployed across five artisanal gold mines in Kakamega gold belt, Kenya, to assess Hg concentrations in mine shaft water, ore washing ponds, and river and stream water, including drinking water sources. In all waters, Hg concentrations were below the WHO guideline limit value of 6 μg L−1, but drinking water sources contained trace concentrations of up to 0.35 μg L−1 total Hg, which may result in negative health effects from long-term exposure. The SPE method developed and deployed here is a robust sampling method that can therefore be applied in future Hg monitoring, toxicology, and environmental work to provide improved data that is representative of total dissolved Hg in water samples.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/d3ay02216a
School/Department: Vice Chancellor's Office
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/9888

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