High-Resolution Inventory of Japanese Anthropogenic Mercury Emissions

Heavy metals like mercury that are emitted into the environment remain there indefinitely, posing a long-term threat to both the environment and human health. Elemental mercury is volatile and is in gaseous form, and because of the long residence time, transported over long distances. Comprehensive control of mercury emissions therefore remains an important international issue. The crucial steps for designing effective approaches for such control include the quantification of mercury emissions by sources and the identification of geographical characteristics of the emissions. In this study a detailed, high-resolution inventory of Japanese mercury emissions in 2005 was developed to improve understanding of their geographical distribution. Proceeding from a national emissions inventory per source category, emissions were spatially allocated with increasing geographical resolution in a stepwise procedure using statistics from geographic information resources, yielding mercury emissions per prefecture, per municipality and per grid cell of approximately 1 × 1 km. The five prefectures with the highest emissions were Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Hyogo, Oita, and Hokkaido, accounting for 35.2% of all emissions. In each prefecture a small number of municipalities account for a major share of emissions. Distribution by grid cell is characterized by a concentration of 50% of all emissions in a mere 32 of the 255 954 grid cells over which emissions are distributed in this study. It was also quantitatively confirmed that use of larger grid cells leads to greater uncertainty in emissions distribution. Problems with data collection are clarified and measures to improve the accuracy of future estimation are proposed.