Model reactions for abiotic mercury(II) methylation: Kinetics of methylation of mercury(II) by mono-, di-, and tri-methyltin in seawater



The usual presence of mercury(II) with monodi-, and tri-methyltin in water, sediments, and plants in estuarine environments suggests possible abiotic formation of methylmercury via methyl transfer from methyltin compounds. Kinetics studies of reactions between mercury(II) and methyltin compounds under pseudo-first-order conditions in seawater show that relative rate of methylmercury formation under the same conditions are: monomethyltin <trimethyltin> dimethyltin. This order is explainable mainly by the speciation and charge of methyltin compounds in seawater and by the existence of mercury(II) as a tetrachloro anion. A factorial experiment with the variables pH and salinity (seawater diluted with deionized water) showed that pH, but not salinity, is significant at the 95% confidence level; and that reaction rates increase as pH increases. These results suggest the possibility of abiotic methylation of mercury(II) in seawater. Additional experiments in seawater demonstrated an absence of methylation of mercury(II) (14 days) and mercury(0) (35 days) by methyl iodide.