October 24 2008

Phytoremediation-a safe alternative?

Recently I had the benefit of sitting in on lecture about using plants to treat environmental problems. The lecture was given by Dr. Lee A. Newman, who has been conducting research in the area of phytoremediation for the past 16 years. Her work at the University of South Carolina focuses on using plants as a safe alternative to clean contaminated lands.

Phytoremediation was discovered years ago when miners began realizing that certain plants thrived in soils with heavy metal concentration. They would survey the lands for these specific plants as a way to find new locations to mine. Since then, much research has been done on using phytoremediation as a "green" alternative to clean lands that have been contaminated by things such as oil, drycleaning solvents, and lead and are deemed unsafe for people. Biologists have found that certain plants benefit from taking contaminants from the soil and storing them in their leaves. In some instances the metals can be collected from the plants and re-used.

It seems like a safe alternative but what are the downsides? Phytoremediation can be a long process. Depending on the concentration of contaminants in the soil the process can take upwards of 5-20 years to fully remediate a given piece of land. Also, there has been some concern over traces of contaminants entering the food chain.

For more information visit these sites

United States Department of Agriculture.


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December 2nd, 2008 at 7:24 PM


You might find this link interesting, as it relates to the above. It's about a lecture I heard at the Bioneers Conference. He talked about using Mycelium in remediating coal mining areas in Appalacha but I don't think I mentioned it in this article. Still mega interesting! http://www.goforchange.com/2008/11/11/2008-baltimore-bioneers/