Retention of mercury in sediments of the Baltic Sea near Oulu, Finland

Kimmo Tolonen, Erkki Alasaarela, Anita Liehu

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Several cores were compared to elucidate the grade of mercury retention in sediments of the Baltic Sea near Oulu, Finland. The known history of the mercury discharge to waste water from a chlor-alkali plant, the primary pollution source, was compared to that in the sedimentary record. One core was dated by lead-210 and varve counts. During the past thirty years, the rate of sedimentation was up to 10 mm per year corresponding to a dry matter accumulation rate of about 3 kg m−2a−1. Under these conditions, most of the mercury reaching the sediment was retained. Correspondingly, the mercury levels in fish were considerably lower, with a delay of some five years.

The present mercury content of the upper layers is some 1/4 or 1/5 that of the late 1970's, but it is still some twentyfold compared to levels at the beginning of the century. The extent to which the present mercury level in the sediment represents the various phases of industrial emission remains unsolved due to the origin of mercury in this sea area from several other sources and due to difficulties in exact core correlations from different years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-140
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1988
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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