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Coal combustion processes are the main source of mercury emission to the environment in Poland. Mercury is emitted by both power and heating plants using hard and brown coals as well as in households. With an annual mercury emission in Poland at the level of 10 Mg, the households emit 0.6 Mg. In the paper, studies on the mercury release in the coal and biomass combustion process in household boilers were conducted. The mercury release factors were determined for that purpose. For the analyzed samples the mercury release factors ranged from 98.3 to 99.1% for hard coal and from 99.5% to 99.9% for biomass, respectively. Due to the high values of the determined factors, the amount of mercury released into the environment mainly depends on the mercury content in the combusted fuel. In light of the obtained results, the mercury content in the examined hard coals was 6 times higher than in the biomass (dry basis). Taking the calorific value of fuels into account, the difference in mercury content between coal and biomass decreased, but its content in coal was still 4 times higher. The mercury content determined in that way ranged from 0.7 to 1.7 μg/MJ for hard coal and from 0.1 to 0.5 μg/MJ for biomass, respectively. The main opportunity to decrease the mercury emissions from households is offered by the use of fuels with a mercury content that is as low as possible, as well as by a reduction of fuel consumption. The latter could be obtained by the use of modern boilers as well as by the thermo-modernization of buildings. It is also possible to partially reduce mercury emissions by using dust removal devices.
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