Articles | Volume 10, issue 13
02 Jul 2010
 | 02 Jul 2010

Global mercury emissions to the atmosphere from anthropogenic and natural sources

N. Pirrone, S. Cinnirella, X. Feng, R. B. Finkelman, H. R. Friedli, J. Leaner, R. Mason, A. B. Mukherjee, G. B. Stracher, D. G. Streets, and K. Telmer

Abstract. This paper provides an up-to-date assessment of global mercury emissions from anthropogenic and natural sources. On an annual basis, natural sources account for 5207 Mg of mercury released to the global atmosphere, including the contribution from re-emission processes, which are emissions of previously deposited mercury originating from anthropogenic and natural sources, and primary emissions from natural reservoirs. Anthropogenic sources, which include a large number of industrial point sources, are estimated to account for 2320 Mg of mercury emitted annually. The major contributions are from fossil-fuel fired power plants (810 Mg yr−1), artisanal small scale gold mining (400 Mg yr−1), non-ferrous metals manufacturing (310 Mg yr−1), cement production (236 Mg yr−1), waste disposal (187 Mg yr−1) and caustic soda production (163 Mg yr−1). Therefore, our current estimate of global mercury emissions suggests that the overall contribution from natural sources (primary emissions + re-emissions) and anthropogenic sources is nearly 7527 Mg per year, the uncertainty associated with these estimates are related to the typology of emission sources and source regions.

Final-revised paper