Atmospheric distribution and deposition of mercury in the Idrija Hg mine region, Slovenia

Environ Res. 2011 Jan;111(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2010.10.012. Epub 2010 Nov 26.


The atmospheric distribution and deposition of Hg in the area of the former Idrija Hg-mine, Slovenia, were investigated. Mapping of air Hg(0) concentrations was performed to assess the spatial distribution and major sources of mercury to the atmosphere in the area. In addition, analyses of mercury speciation in the air over Idrija were performed during a 4-day sampling campaign in September 2006 to better understand the fate and transformation of Hg in the atmosphere of this specific mercury polluted site. The speciation results were then compared to the results of mercury speciation in the wet and throughfall deposition sampled on a precipitation event basis from October 2006 to September 2007. The Hg(0) concentration in air was mostly below 10 ng m(-3), with the highest concentration in the area of the former smelter complex exceeding 5000 ng m(-3). Mercury-bearing airborne particles (TPM) seem to dominate the atmospheric Hg deposition, which revealed noticeable variations between precipitation events (11-76 ng m(-2)day(-1)), mostly as a function of the amount of precipitation. Hg in precipitation was largely (∼ 50%) associated with the particulate phase (THg(P)). No correlation was found between the THg(P) and the dissolved phases (THg(D)), suggesting that particulate phase Hg is mostly the result of dry deposition. In the throughfall, significantly higher (2-10 fold) Hg concentrations than in associated event precipitation were observed, mostly due to Hg in the particulate phase (∼ 70% THg). As shown by SEM/EDXS microscopy, an important amount of mercury in the precipitation and throughfall samples is due to the presence of cinnabar particles as a result of the aeolian erosion of cinnabar-containing surfaces in the area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / chemistry*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Mercury Compounds / analysis
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Particle Size
  • Seasons
  • Slovenia
  • Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission


  • Air Pollutants
  • Mercury Compounds
  • Mercury
  • cinnabar