Mercury and methylmercury in Baltic Sea sediments, and Polish and Lithuanian soils

Gytautas Ignatavičius, Murat H. Unsal, Peter E. Busher, Stanisław Wołkowicz, Jonas Satkūnas, Vaidotas Valskys


We review the current environmental pollution by mercury in the soils of Poland and Lithuania and in the sediments of the Baltic Sea. Mercury is documented to have many negative impacts on the environment as a toxic trace element. In many different chemical forms, it is being released into the environment by both geogenic and anthropogenic activities, with most being released from anthropogenic sources. Methylmercury is considered one of the most toxic forms found in the environment. Mercury levels in sediment and various point sources increased after World War II in the Baltic Sea, which was used as a dumpsite. Previous studies show noticeable differences in total mercury in the Baltic Sea. In the Warta and Odra rivers in Poland, mercury levels are also higher than the background value, though recent findings suggest that river sediments are not the main source of mercury to marine sediments. Concentrations in soils in Poland and Lithuania were below the level of limit values (1 and 1.5 mg/ kg−1 respectively), but Upper Silesia showed concentrations (up to 4.01 mg·kg−1) above the limit values. Furthermore, between 1992 and 2006, mercury levels in Wrocław dropped dramatically. The dominant trees in the area can affect mercury accumulation. No data were available for comparison with the soils in Estonia and Latvia.


mercury; methylmercury; soil; sediment; Lithuania; Poland; Baltic Sea

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