DISTRIBUTION OF MERCURY AND LEAD BETWEEN SEDIMENT AND WATER IN RIVERS IN THE UNITED STATES
A high level of metal in an aquatic ecosystem, such as river, can jeopardize the livelihood
of the organisms in the ecosystem. On one hand, some type of metals are needed for
metabolic processes, but a number of metals are toxic that when they are being
accumulated to an abnormal level in the human body, it can be fatal. As bioavailability of
a certain kind of metal is also controlled by its concentration, the distribution of metal
between water and sediment in an aquatic environment also has an impact of its
bioavailability and exposure to organism. A study on how metals are being distributed
between water and sediment will give a better understanding about the fate of metals in
the natural environment. In this study, the data is collected from various research on the
concentration of mercury and lead in the river. Most of the paper report the
concentration of metal in the sediment in the unit of ng/g (mercury) or µg/g (lead).
However, considering that the concentration of the metal in water is mostly reported in
the unit of ng/L (mercury) or µg/L (lead), metal concentrations in the sediment are
converted into ng/kg (mercury) and µg/kg (lead). Assuming that the density of water is 1
g/mL, this conversion is expected to give a better rationalization in comparing metal
concentration between those two different phases. The ratio of metal in water to its
concentration in sediment is compared between lead and sediment, lead has a higher
ratio compared to mercury. This is because dissolution of lead in water is also facilitated
by suspended particle materials in the water. The content of both lead and mercury in
river also comes from atmospheric deposition. Historically, lead has been widely used as
one of the additives in gasoline. Thus, there is a correlation between the level of lead
found in a river with the usage of gasoline.
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