The team tested the new instrument alongside the standard instrumentation that is currently used to monitor atmospheric mercury concentrations.

This new highly sensitive laser-based instrument provides scientists with a method to more accurately measure global human exposure to mercury. And the measurement approach is called sequential two-photon laser induced fluorescence (2P-LIF), which is used two different laser beams to excite mercury atoms and monitor blue shifted atomic fluorescence.

"To understand how mercury gets deposited we need to understand its atmospheric chemistry, but our understanding is very limited. Our instrument has the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of the atmospheric cycling of mercury and increase understanding of the global impact of mercury on human health," said Hynes, a co-author of the study.

Hynes also noted that these represent huge steps forward but their effectiveness in protecting human health may be limited without an increased understanding of the global cycling of atmospheric mercury.

Mercury is deposited on the ground or through rainfall where it bioaccumulates and biomagnifies, ending up at much high concentrations in fish and mammals.

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