Forms of mercury. Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and soil. It exists in several forms: elemental or metallic mercury, inorganic mercury compounds, and organic mercury compounds.
Sources of mercury. Mercury is an element in the earth’s crust. Humans cannot create or destroy mercury. Pure mercury is a liquid metal, sometimes referred to as quicksilver that volatizes readily. It has traditionally been used to make products like thermometers, switches, and some light bulbs.
Mercury is found in many rocks including coal. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the environment. Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 40 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions. EPA has estimated that about one quarter of U.S. emissions from coal-burning power plants are deposited within the contiguous U.S. and the remainder enters the global cycle. Burning hazardous wastes, producing chlorine, breaking mercury products, and spilling mercury, as well as the improper treatment and disposal of products or wastes containing mercury, can also release it into the environment.
Capco Analytical Services, Inc. has been performing low-level mercury testing in our clean laboratory. In addition to a variety of water matrices, we have experience analyzing hundreds of samples on several types of solid matrices: fish, coal, oil, sawdust, air filter and bark. We have a documented history of freedom from contamination and excellent recovery of ongoing precision and recovery standards and MS/MSDs within the QC acceptance criteria of EPA Method 245.1 and 7470.
Low level mercury measurements are conducted by EPA Method 245.1 and the 7470, a very sensitive analytical technique. That utilizes Cold-Vapor Atomic Absorption Spectrometry for the determination of the concentration of mercury in water, mobility-procedure extracts, aqueous wastes, and ground waters.