Keywords: mercury contamination, methylmercury, environmental health, International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, environmental cycling, mercury emissions, pollution, nuclear techniques, isotopic techniques
An overview of recent IAEA projects on mercury in non-marine environments
Nuclear and isotopic techniques are unique tools for studying mercury contamination and cycling in various environments. Therefore, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been supporting the use of nuclear and complementary analytical techniques (mainly neutron activation analysis, inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry and atomic absorption spectrometry), and application of radioactive and enriched stable isotopes in its member states since many years. The main mechanisms of support have been technical cooperation and coordinated research projects. Whilst the technical cooperation projects have helped in solving technical problems and providing know-how in the developing member states, the research projects have supported both basic and applied research. So far, participants from 18 IAEA member states have taken part in projects concerned with non-marine environments. In this paper, IAEA's supportive mechanisms are presented and the results of recently finished and on-going projects are discussed. As an important part of the IAEA activities, several interlaboratory comparison exercises were organised and reference materials characterised for both total and methylmercury issued.