Methylmercury photodegradation in surface water of the Florida Everglades: importance of dissolved organic matter-methylmercury complexation

Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Jul 1;48(13):7333-40. doi: 10.1021/es500316d. Epub 2014 Jun 18.


Photodegradation is the major pathway of methylmercury (MeHg) degradation in many surface waters. However, the mechanism of MeHg photodegradation is still not completely understood. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is expected to play a critical role in MeHg photodegradation. By using several techniques, including N2/O2 purging and the addition of stable isotope (Me(201)Hg), scavengers, competing ligands, and a singlet oxygen ((1)O2) generator, the role played by MeHg-DOM complexation in MeHg photodegradation of Everglades surface water was investigated. DOM appeared to be involved in MeHg photodegradation via the formation MeHg-DOM complexes based on three findings: (1) MeHg was quickly photodegraded in solutions containing DOM extracts; (2) degradation of MeHg did not occur in deionized water; and (3) addition of competing complexation reagents (dithiothreitol-DTT) dramatically prohibited the photodegradation of MeHg in Everglades water. Further experiments indicated that free radicals/reactive oxygen species, including hydroxyl radical (·OH), (1)O2, triplet excited state of DOM ((3)DOM*), and hydrated electron (e(-)aq), played a minor role in MeHg photodegradation in Everglades water, based on the results of scavenger addition, (1)O2 generator addition and N2/O2 purging. A pathway, involving direct photodegradation of MeHg-DOM complexes via intramolecular electron transfer, is proposed as the dominant mechanism for MeHg photodegradation in Everglades water.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem*
  • Florida
  • Hydroxyl Radical / chemistry
  • Kinetics
  • Methylmercury Compounds / chemistry*
  • Nitrogen / chemistry
  • Oxygen / chemistry
  • Photolysis*
  • Solutions
  • Superoxides / chemistry
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Solutions
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water
  • Superoxides
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen