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Status of Atmospheric Mercury Research in South Asia: A Review

Category: Review

Volume: 15 | Issue: 3 | Pages: 1092-1109
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2014.05.0098
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Anita Kumari, Bablu Kumar, Shabana Manzoor, Umesh Kulshrestha

  • School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067, India


Present atmospheric deposition of mercury is 3 times higher than preindustrial levels.
Comprehensive studies on atmospheric mercury have been reported from east Asia.
Extremely poor understanding of atmospheric mercury in south Asia.
Need is emphasized to measure various forms of atmospheric mercury in south Asia.


Mercury (Hg) is a highly toxic metal, which is known as a global pollutant due to its ability to undergo long-range transport in the atmosphere. Methylated mercury can pose serious adverse effects on human health and environment. Mercury is emitted into the atmosphere by various natural and anthropogenic sources. The largest anthropogenic source of mercury is coal combustion, which contributes ~62% of global emissions. Total global emissions of atmospheric mercury are estimated to be 5600 Mg/year from natural and anthropogenic sources, respectively, contributing around 37% and 63% of total atmospheric mercury. About 40% of global anthropogenic emissions are contributed by East and Southeast Asia with the largest emissions from China (75%) followed by South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Latter regions are mainly responsible due to increase in artisanal and small scale gold mining. The present estimates of mercury emissions have large uncertainties in global budget, which are mainly due to lack of knowledge of mercury exchange between various components of ecosystem with its speciation in spatial and temporal distribution. Special efforts are needed in the regions of growing economy especially in South Asia where atmospheric mercury is almost unattempted. In order to reduce uncertainties and get more realistic emission figures, there is need to develop an extensive monitoring network to measure various forms of mercury in air, soil and aquatic systems in south Asia. Controlling the emissions of global atmospheric mercury is a big challenge to the scientists and policymakers. Probably, it can be achieved by focusing on implementation of the available technologies and by developing new technologies for mercury removal through developing an extensive partnership between industries and governmental organizations.


Atmospheric mercury Global mercury budgets Coal emission Mercury cycle Mercury in south Asia

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