Global evaluation and calibration of a passive air sampler for gaseous mercury

David S. McLagan*, Carl P.J. Mitchell, Alexandra Steffen, Hayley Hung, Cecilia Shin, Geoff W. Stupple, Mark L. Olson, Winston T. Luke, Paul Kelley, Dean Howard, Grant C. Edwards, Peter F. Nelson, Hang Xiao, Guey-Rong Sheu, Annekatrin Dreyer, Haiyong Huang, Batual Abdul Hussain, Ying D. Lei, Ilana Tavshunsky, Frank Wania

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Passive air samplers (PASs) for gaseous mercury (Hg) were deployed for time periods between 1 month and 1 year at 20 sites across the globe with continuous atmospheric Hg monitoring using active Tekran instruments. The purpose was to evaluate the accuracy of the PAS vis-à-vis the industry standard active instruments and to determine a sampling rate (SR; the volume of air stripped of gaseous Hg per unit of time) that is applicable across a wide range of conditions. The sites spanned a wide range of latitudes, altitudes, meteorological conditions, and gaseous Hg concentrations. Precision, based on 378 replicated deployments performed by numerous personnel at multiple sites, is 3.6 ± 3.0 %1, confirming the PAS's excellent reproducibility and ease of use. Using a SR previously determined at a single site, gaseous Hg concentrations derived from the globally distributed PASs deviate from Tekran-based concentrations by 14.2 ± 10 %. A recalibration using the entire new data set yields a slightly higher SR of 0.1354 ± 0.016 m3 day-1. When concentrations are derived from the PAS using this revised SR the difference between concentrations from active and passive sampling is reduced to 8.8 ± 7.5 %. At the mean gaseous Hg concentration across the study sites of 1.54 ng m-3, this represents an ability to resolve concentrations to within 0.13 ng m-3. Adjusting the sampling rate to deployment specific temperatures and wind speeds does not decrease the difference in active-passive concentration further (8.7 ± 5.7 %), but reduces its variability by leading to better agreement in Hg concentrations measured at sites with very high and very low temperatures and very high wind speeds. This value (8.7 ± 5.7 %) represents a conservative assessment of the overall uncertainty of the PAS due to inherent uncertainties of the Tekran instruments. Going forward, the recalibrated SR adjusted for temperature and wind speed should be used, especially if conditions are highly variable or deviate considerably from the average of the deployments in this study (9.89 °C, 3.41 m s-1). Overall, the study demonstrates that the sampler is capable of recording background gaseous Hg concentrations across a wide range of environmental conditions with accuracy similar to that of industry standard active sampling instruments. Results at sites with active speciation units were inconclusive on whether the PASs take up total gaseous Hg or solely gaseous elemental Hg primarily because gaseous oxidized Hg concentrations were in a similar range as the uncertainty of the PAS. 1Subscripted numbers are not significant, but are reported to reduce rounding errors in subsequent studies (see Sect. 2.3 for details).

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5905-5919
    Number of pages15
    JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2018

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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