In recent years, a number of efficient methods for the extraction, separation and detection of different metal species have been introduced and evaluated. The main problem is still to identify the appropriate procedure for the analysis of a certain environmental sample.

Many studies investigating the natural cycles of inorganic metals and organometal-lic species in terrestrial habitats, such as those done on mercury, have been performed to advance knowledge in this field. A diagram illustrating the mercury cycle is shown in Fig. 14.1. It has proven possible to identify the main methylaters of metals. In aquatic, terrestrial and intestinal ecosystems, sulfate-reducing bacteria appear to play a major role in biomethylation. Particularly in terrestrial ecosystems, the food chain from bacteria to humans via different animals needs to be studied in more detail in order to evaluate potential toxic effects and ensure that end-consumers avoid them.

Acknowledgements We thank Prof. Dr. K.G. Heumann/Prof. Dr. Nicolas H. Bings (Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, University Mainz), Prof. Dr. Michael Kersten (Institute for Geosciences) for providing the GC-AFD facility and Dr. H. Hertel (BAM, Berlin) for supplying us with termites. We are especially grateful to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for its financial support of this work within the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg "Trace Analysis of Elemental Species: Method Developments and Applications".

Fig. 14.1 Schematic of the mercury cycle


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