Styrofoam debris as a potential carrier of mercury within ecosystems

The present paper falls within the trend of research into interactions between various pollutants emitted anthropogenically into the environment and focuses on mercury and styrofoam debris. The study covers part of the Southern Baltic’s drainage area. Apart from styrofoam and beach sand, the research involved mosses, which are bioindicators of atmospheric metal pollution. The research has shown that mercury present in the environment becomes associated with styrofoam debris. The median for mercury concentrations in virgin styrofoam samples (0.23 ng g−1 dry weight (d.w.)) and in beach sand samples (0.69 ng g−1 d.w.) was an order of magnitude lower than in the styrofoam debris (5.20 ng g−1 d.w.). The highest mercury content observed in styrofoam debris (3,863 ng g−1 d.w.) exceeded the standards for bottom sediment and soil. The binding of mercury to styrofoam debris takes place in water, and presumably also through contact with the ground. A significant role in this process was played by biotic factors, such as the presence of biofilm and abiotic ones, such as solar radiation and the transformations of mercury forms related to it. As a result, mercury content in styrofoam debris underwent seasonal changes, peaking in summertime. Furthermore, the regional changes of mercury content in the studied debris seem to reflect the pollution levels of the environment.

Graca Bozena, Beldowska Magdalena, Wrzesien Patrycja, Zgrundo Aleksandra, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Volume 21 (3), p. 2263-2271, 2014

The article (Open access)

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