Global Mercury Monitoring

BrochureResponding to the need for further guidance on the establishment of a global monitoring system, UN Environment, in collaboration with partners and with financial support from the GEF, has been implementing the project “Develop a plan for global monitoring of Human exposure to and environmental concentration of Mercury”.




General highlights of the project

  • Biota is a key bioindicator that reflect the potential harm of emissions and releases of mercury to air, water and land;
  • Soil is a very complex matrix, mercury monitoring in soil need further science-based development for achieving comparable and cost-effective data;
  • Cost-effective methodologies to assess human exposure (human biomonitoring) to and environmental (air sampling) concentration of mercury are well-established;
  • A global monitoring plan for mercury can be built on already existing initiatives, however long-term capacity building strategies, especially in some regions, (i.e. Africa, South Asia, Pacific and Latin America) and due consideration of long-term sustainability are still needed; and
  • The performance of laboratories undertaking mercury analyses in various parts of the world shows potential of building on already existing analytical capacities and networks.


Technical Information on mercury monitoring in Biota

Mercury Biota MonitoringBiota are important bioindicators because they reflect the potential harm of emissions and releases of mercury to air, water and land. Because there are not suitable models to predict the methylation process and the entry of methylmercury into the food web, high trophic level biota is recommended (i.e., trophic level 4 or higher). The technical report compiled and synthesized information available on mercury in biota and identified information and data gaps, comparability, options for filling gaps, available modelling capabilities to assess changes, baselines, and proposed monitoring approaches.


Technical Information on mercury monitoring in Soil

Soil ReportSoil plays an important role in the global and regional mercury fluxes, a major issue is the importance of anthropogenic mercury relative to the mercury content in the environments. This report compiles and synthesizes available information on mercury in soil in the context of global mercury cycles as it acts as a source and a sink of mercury. The complexity of mercury behaviour in soil is addressed. Comparability of data for soil characterisation points to the need of further harmonisation and standardisation of monitoring strategies, including sampling design, sampling, sample processing and detection of mercury and its compounds in soil.

Existing global mercury monitoring networks and worldwide laboratory capacities

Global review of Mercury Monitoring Networks

Global Monitoring Netwroks

The review compiles and synthesizes available information on existing mercury monitoring networks, including (i) air monitoring, (ii) human biomonitoring, and (iii) biota monitoring. It also seeks to highlight gaps in the coverage and scope of the monitoring networks, in particular in terms of geographical distribution and institutional organization (global, regional, national and local studies).


Databank of laboratories

DataBased on the responses to the questionnaire a databank of laboratories analysing mercury was developed in 2017, the databank is a joint effort with the POPs laboratories databank. The Hg databank lists laboratories from both developed and developing countries, capable of identifying and quantifying mercury species in biotic (human urine, cord blood, fish etc.) and/or abiotic (ambient air, sediment etc.) samples.


Interlaboratory assessment of laboratories analysing mercury 


The first round of an Interlaboratory assessment was successful organized, 38 laboratories from 28 countries and all 5 UN regions delivered results. Laboratories were invited to choose to analyse one or all of three types of samples: a) Standard solution, b) Hair and c) Fish.

Summary results per matrix and percentage of laboratories reporting satisfactory results, and violin plot showing the probability density of all results. 


The final report with detailed results and conclusion can be downloaded Here.


Pilot study of Environmental Monitoring and Human Biomonitoring

Furthermore, building on existing experiences in mercury monitoring, the project has created the scientific bases for monitoring of mercury in air and in humans at global, regional and local levels. The applicability of the proposed techniques has been pilot tested for human biomonitoring (HBM) and air globally.

Pilot study


Pilot study on mercury monitoring in Ambient Air



Pilot study on mercury Human Biomonitoring

Blank_spaceSOP_HBMSurvey Protocol HBMHBM Hair sampling video


Inf. documents submitted to Minamata COPs and other relevant documents


INF_doc_COP3Global Monitoring of Mercury: Outcomes from the GEF-funded project. Information document submitted to the Third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention COP3: UNEP/MC/COP.3/INF/19



Monaco_meetingExpert Consultation Meeting on Mercury Monitoring on Soil and Biota Date: 13 - 14 May 2019 Monaco, Principality of Monaco

Meeting_COP2Workshop - Human Exposure to and Environment Concentration of Mercury Outcomes and lessons learnt Global Environment Facility Project
Date: 17 November 2018, Geneva, Switzerland

Meeting_romeWorkshop – Elements towards a Global Monitoring Plan for Mercury
Date: 13 - 14 February 2018, Montelibretti, Rome, Italy