Photochemical Degradation of Dimethylmercury in Natural Waters
Photochemical demethylation of dimethylmercury (DMHg) could potentially be an important source of monomethylmercury (MMHg) in sunlit water. Whether or not DMHg is photochemically degraded when dissolved in water is, however, debated. While an early study suggested DMHg dissolved in natural waters to readily degrade, later work claimed DMHg to be stable in seawater under natural sunlight and that early observations may be due to experimental artifacts. Here, we present experimental data showing that DMHg is readily degraded by photochemical processes in different natural waters (including water from a DOC-rich stream, the Baltic Sea, and the Arctic Ocean) as well as in artificial seawater and purified water. For most of the waters, the degradation rate constant (kd) for DMHg measured in indoor experiments exceeded, or was close to, the kd observed for MMHg. Outdoor incubations of DMHg in purified water and Arctic Ocean surface water further confirmed that DMHg is photochemically degraded under natural sunlight. Our study shows that DMHg is photochemically degraded in a range of natural waters and that this process may be a source of MMHg in sunlit waters where the supply or formation of DMHg is sufficient.