5 years ago

Historical releases of mercury to air, land, and water from coal combustion

Historical releases of mercury to air, land, and water from coal combustion
Coal combustion is one of the largest contemporary sources of anthropogenic mercury (Hg). It releases geologically sequestered Hg to the atmosphere, and fly ash can contaminate terrestrial and aquatic systems. We estimate that coal combustion has released a cumulative total of 38.0 (14.8–98.9, 80% C.I.) Gg (gigagrams, 109 g or thousand tonnes) of Hg to air, land, and water up to the year 2010, most of which (97%) has occurred since 1850. The rate of release has grown by two orders of magnitude from 0.01Ggyr1 in 1850 to 1Ggyr1 in 2010. Geographically, Asia and Europe each account for 32% of cumulative releases and an additional 18% is from North America. About 26.3 (10.2–68.3) Gg, 71% of the total, were directly emitted to the atmosphere, mostly from the industrial (45%) and power generation (36%) sectors, while the remainder was disposed of to land and water bodies. While Europe and North America were the major contributing regions until 1950, Asia has surpassed both in recent decades. By 2010, Asia was responsible for 69% of the total releases of Hg from coal combustion to the environment. Control technologies installed on major emitting sources capture mainly particulate and divalent Hg, and therefore the fraction of elemental Hg in emissions from coal combustion has increased over time from 0.46 in 1850 to 0.61 in 2010. About 11.8 (4.6–30.6) Gg of Hg, 31% of the total, have been transferred to land and water bodies through the disposal or utilization of Hg-containing combustion waste and collected fly ash/FGD waste; approximately 8.8Gg of this Hg have simply been discarded to waste piles or ash ponds or rivers.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0048969717325585

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