Analysis of sorption and bioavailability of different species of mercury on model soil components using XAS techniques and sensor bacteria

Bernaus, Anna; Gaona, Xavier; Ivask, Angela; Kahru, Anne; Valiente, Manuel
August 2005
Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry;Aug2005, Vol. 382 Issue 7, p1541
Academic Journal
The present work studies the adsorption behaviour of mercury species on different soil components (montmorillonite, kaolinite and humic acid) spiked with CH3HgCl and CH3HgOH at different pH values, by using XAS techniques and bacterial mercury sensors in order to evaluate the availability of methyl mercury on soil components. The study details and discusses different aspects of the adsorption process, including sample preparation (with analysis of adsorbed methyl mercury by ICP-OES), the various adsorption conditions, and the characterization of spiked samples by XAS techniques performed at two synchrotron facilities (ESRF in Grenoble, France and HASYLAB in Hamburg, Germany), as well as bioavailability studies using mercury-specific sensor bacteria. Results show that XAS is a valuable qualitative technique that can be used to identify the bonding character of the Hg in mercury environment. The amount of methyl in mercury adsorbed to montmorillonite was pH-dependent while for all soil components studied, the bond character was not affected by pH. On the other hand, clays exhibited more ionic bonding character than humic acids did with methyl mercury. This interaction has a higher covalent character and so it is more stable for CH3HgOH than for CH3HgCl, due to the higher reactivity of the hydroxyl group arising from the possible formation of hydrogen bonds. The bioavailability of methyl mercury adsorbed to montmorillonite, kaolinite and humic acids was measured using recombinant luminescent sensor bacterium Escherichia coli MC1061 (pmerBRBSluc). In case of contact exposure (suspension assays), the results showed that the bioavailability was higher than it was for exposure to particle-free extracts prepared from these suspensions. The highest bioavailability of methyl mercury was found in suspensions of montmorillonite (about 50% of the total amount), while the bioavailabilities of kaolinite and humic acids were five times lower (about 10%). The behaviour of methyl mercury in the presence of montmorillonite could be explained by the more ionic bonding character of this system, in contrast to the more covalent bonding character observed for humic acids. Thus, XAS techniques seem to provide promising tools for investigating the mechanisms behind the observed bioavailabilities of metals in various environmental matrices, an important topic in environmental toxicology.


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