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Phytoremediation

Date: 24 May 2022 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

A natural method to remove toxins from soil, known as phytoremediation, has been used by scientists to remove heavy toxic metals.

 

Background

Soil contamination takes place due to variety of reasons including mineral extraction, accidental spills, illegal dumping and leakage of underground storage tanks.

 

Details

  • Due to rapid industrialization, soil pollution is growing at a high rate. These toxins enter our food chain after they are absorbed by crops.

  • Phytoremediation technique uses living organisms like plants, microalgae, and seaweeds to clean soil from heavy metals and toxins.

 

Hyperaccumulator plants

  • Using a category of plants called hyperaccumulator will absorb heavy toxin substances from the soil and store in their tissue.

  • In comparison to other plants, they have the ability to absorb hundreds or thousands of times greater amounts of these substances than is normal for most plants.

  • Most of these plants typically accumulate nickel and grow on soils that are rich in nickel, cobalt and in some cases, manganese.

 

Working

  • Hyperaccumulator plants absorb the pollutants from the soil through their roots and transport them to their stem, leaves and other parts.

  • The plants can be harvested and either disposed or even utilized to extract these toxic metals from the plant.

  • Heavy metals such as cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, mercury, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, lead and zinc can be extracted from soil. They do not work for organic compounds.

 

Advantages of using hyperaccumulators

  • In comparison with other methods, it is cost-effective. Crop management is the only cost associated with hyperaccumulator-based phytoremediation.

  • It does not require any new specialised technology. They add microbes and organic compounds to soil. They protect soil from erosion.

 

Disadvantages

  • Using hyperaccumulator for phytoremediation is slow and time-consuming. It can take time up to 10 years for the area to be completely restored.

  • These plants can become invasive if the characteristics are not properly studied. It can upset the delicate ecological balance of the region.

 

Way ahead

  • Scientists suggest using plants that are native to the region for the process of phytoremediation to ensure that ecology is maintained.

  • It will reduce problems in getting legal permission to procure plants and grow them.

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