The applicability of microwave-induced plasma optical emission spectrometry (MIP-OES) for continuous monitoring of the environmentally hazardous element mercury in flue gases has been studied. Microwave induced plasmas have been sustained using both a TM010 cavity (Beenakker resonator) and a so-called Surfatron. The analytical figures of merit for mercury in argon and helium discharges with both types of low-power micro-wave discharges have been examined. To determine mercury in artificial stack gases non-mixed argon/nitrogen discharges have been tested using a tangential flow torch design which allows to introduce a metal-loaded nitrogen gas flow as external gas and argon as internal gas. The addition of main flue gas components such as water vapour (concentration <6 g/m³), oxygen (<4% v/v) and carbon dioxide (<15% v/v) decrease the mercury line intensities to a considerable extent. Trace gases (CO, HCl, SO2, NO) in concentrations typical to waste incineration processes have been found to have no effect on the mercury and the argon line intensities. The detection limit of mercury in nitrogen is 8 μg/m³ using the TM010 MIP and 10 μg/m³ using the Surfatron. As such low detection limits are below the emission limit values of present-day environmental legislation MIP-OES is useful for on-line monitoring of mercury.