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Methylmercury production in a paddy soil and its uptake by rice plants as affected by different geochemical mercury pools

Liu, Jinling, Wang, Jianxu, Ning, Yongqiang, Yang, Shaochen, Wang, Pengcong, Shaheen, Sabry M., Feng, Xinbin, Rinklebe, Jörg
Environment international 2019 v.129 pp. 461-469
brown rice, dissolved organic matter, growing season, human health, leaves, mercuric chloride, mercury, methylation, methylmercury compounds, neurotoxicity, paddies, paddy soils, panicles, polluted soils, ripening, risk, roots, seedlings, tillering
The formation of neurotoxic methylmercury (MeHg) in paddy fields and its accumulation by rice plants is of high environmental concern. The contribution of different geochemical mercury (Hg) pools in paddy soils to MeHg production and its accumulation by rice seedlings is not well-studied up to now. Therefore, we investigated the impact of different inorganic Hg forms, including HgCl2, nano-particulated HgS (nano-HgS), Hg bound with dissolved organic matter (Hg-DOM), β-HgS, and α-HgS, at levels of 5 mg Hg/kg soil and 50 mg Hg/kg soil, on the production of MeHg in the soil during rice growing season. Further, we studied the uptake of MeHg by the roots, stalks, leaves, and grains of rice in the tillering, panicle formation, and ripening growth stages, and compared these treatments to a non-polluted soil (control). MeHg contents in HgCl2 polluted soil were the highest, and were 13.5 times and 36.1 times higher than control in 5 and 50 mg/kg Hg treatments, respectively. MeHg contents in α-HgS, β-HgS, nano-HgS, and Hg-DOM polluted soil were 3.9, 2.6, 2.4, and 1.7 times, and 4.4, 15.1, 6.7, and 10.9 times higher than control in 5 and 50 mg/kg Hg treatments, respectively, suggesting the mobilization and methylation of these Hg complexes. The ratio of MeHg to total Hg in the pore water (indication of methylation potential) in HgCl2 and β-HgS treatments were higher than in Hg-DOM, α-HgS, and nano-HgS treatments. HgCl2 treatment resulted in significantly higher MeHg contents in the root, stalk, leaf, and brown rice than nano-HgS, Hg-DOM, β-HgS, and α-HgS treatments both in 5 and 50 mg/kg Hg polluted soils. Rice grain in HgCl2 treatment showed a potential hazard to human health, as indicated by high health risk index (HRI > 1) of MeHg. Current results improve our understanding of MeHg production in soil polluted with different Hg forms, and the assessment of human health risks from consumption of MeHg-laden rice grain at Hg polluted sites with different Hg forms in soils.