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Concurrently Measured Concentrations of Atmospheric Mercury in Indoor (household) and Outdoor Air of Basel, Switzerland

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journal contribution
posted on 19.03.2020, 15:38 by Lena Wohlgemuth, David McLagan, Benjamin Flückiger, Danielle Vienneau, Stefan Osterwalder
Indoor air pollution can be a major health risk because urban populations spend up to 90% of their time in closed rooms. Gaseous elemental mercury (GEM) has not been measured as routinely as other indoor air pollutants due to the high costs and limited mobility of active Hg analyzers. However, household GEM concentrations may exceed Hg air quality guidelines as a result of potential indoor GEM sources like broken Hg thermometers. Here we deploy novel low-cost mercury passive air samplers (MerPAS) in 27 households (7 days) and at 14 outdoor locations (29–31 days) in Basel, Switzerland. Average Hg concentrations ranged from 2.0 to 10.8 ng m–3 indoors and from 1.8 to 2.5 ng m–3 outdoors. These results reveal that households are a net source of Hg to the urban atmosphere and exceed outdoor Hg levels by a factor of 2 on average. We estimated an average weekly intake rate of 0.01 μg of Hg/kg of body weight for adult residents in Basel, which is usually lower than Hg exposure of people with dental amalgam fillings. Our campaign demonstrates that air monitoring programs can easily be complemented by straightforward Hg measurements using MerPAS.

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