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Issue 10, 2018
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Hg isotope ratio measurements of methylmercury in fish tissues using HPLC with off line cold vapour generation MC-ICPMS

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Abstract

Species-specific Hg isotope ratio data has increasingly become an important tool in understanding biogeochemistry of mercury. Among the plethora of analytical techniques capable of separating Hg species to date only gas chromatography has been used to study natural variations in their isotopic composition. Here, we report new methodology for precise and accurate Hg isotope ratio measurements of methylmercury in fish tissues at environmentally relevant levels using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and cold vapour generation multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (CVG MC-ICPMS). The chromatographic baseline separation of Hg species such as methylmercury (CH3Hg) and inorganic Hg (iHg) was achieved in isocratic mode using reverse phase HPLC with a mobile phase containing L-cysteine as a complexing agent and without the need for species derivatisation. The signal-to-noise ratio of Hg detection by MC-ICP-MS was improved using a cold vapour generation interface with SnCl2 as reducing agent. Challenges driven by the non-reactivity of CH3Hg with SnCl2 and, interferences caused by the presence of L-cysteine in the mobile phase were efficiently overcome through complete oxidation of isolated Hg species prior to cold vapour generation and species-specific Hg isotope ratio measurements. Combined standard uncertainties of δ199/198Hg, δ200/198Hg, δ201/198Hg and δ202/198Hg values determined from replicated measurements of CH3Hg in fish tissue reference materials BCR 463 and NIST SRM 1947 ranged from 0.10‰ to 0.22‰. The obtained δ-values for the Hg isotope ratios are in very good agreement with indicative values of NIST SRM 1947 and those previously reported for BCR 463 material. The developed technique offers a complimentary measurement method to gas chromatography MC-ICPMS in producing isotopically certified species-specific reference materials for Hg. Furthermore, evidence for Hg isotope fractionation induced by dissociation of CH3Hg and interactions with sulphur compounds in solution is provided here as well.

Graphical abstract: Hg isotope ratio measurements of methylmercury in fish tissues using HPLC with off line cold vapour generation MC-ICPMS

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Publication details

The article was received on 10 Apr 2018, accepted on 06 Aug 2018 and first published on 14 Aug 2018


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8JA00099A
Citation: J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2018,33, 1645-1654
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    Hg isotope ratio measurements of methylmercury in fish tissues using HPLC with off line cold vapour generation MC-ICPMS

    J. Entwisle, D. Malinovsky, P. J. H. Dunn and H. Goenaga-Infante, J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2018, 33, 1645
    DOI: 10.1039/C8JA00099A

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