Phytoremediation of Lead and Zinc Contaminated Soils

Phytoremediation of Lead and Zinc Contaminated Soils



1.1        Background of study

Phytoremediation: Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, mankind has been introducing numerous hazardous compounds into the environment at an exponential rate. Nigeria  is  a  major  producer  and  exporter  of  crude  petroleum  oil  as  well  as  an  important  agricultural  nation  in  the West  African  sub-region  (  et  al,2005). The  country’s  population  is  increasing  geometrically;  industrial areas  and  many  urban  cities  are  also  expanding  rapidly.

The  continuous exploration, processing  of  crude  oil  and  its transportation  (Agbogidi  et  al,2007),industrial/agricultural  production  amidst  the  absence  of  a  proper  and legitimate waste disposal system (Ikhuoria et al, 2010) may cause the soil to be contaminated.Contaminated soils  pose  a  major  environmental  and human health problem,  which  may  be  partially  solved  by  the  emerging  phytoremediation technology. Phytoremediation involves  raising  of  plants  hydroponically  and transplanting  them into  metal-polluted soil  and water  where  plants  absorb and concentrate  the  metals  in their  roots  and  shoots. As  they  become saturated with the  metal  contaminants, roots  or  whole  plants  are  harvested for  disposal. Most  researchers  believe  that  plants  for  phytoremediation should accumulate metals only in the roots(Salt  et  al.,1997).

1.2       Objective of the Study

Phytoremediation has been shown to provide a cost-effective alternative for cleaning up heavy metal contaminated soil. The objective and purpose of this project is to determine the current state of phytoremediation as an innovative technology and to discuss its usefulness and potential in the remediation of lead and zinc contaminated soils. Brief information of phytoremediation is provided and discusses the principle of phytoremediation, benefits and problems, and recent studies of phytoremediation. Brief information about maize plant, cultivation, season and life cycle, reported uses of maize stalk, and maize stalk uptake of heavy metal follows, leading into the phytoremediation of lead and zinc contaminated soils.

1.3       Scope            

The scope of this project is to show that maize plant can be used to contain and remediate heavy metal polluted soil, phytoremediation is a low cost and environmental friendly technology targeting removal of heavy metal contaminated soil (lead and zinc) this is a diverse green technology that uses naturally occurring plant to decontaminate heavy metal contaminated soil which is environmental friendly, cheap, and easy to manage.




2.1       Heavy metals

Heavy metals are those metals with relatively high density and also poisonous and toxic even at low concentration. The most common heavy metals at hazardous waste sites are Cadmium (Cd), Chromium(Cr), Copper (Cu), Lead (Pb), Mercury (Hg), Nickel (Ni) and Zinc (Zn) (USEPA,1997).  Of these, lead and zinc are two of the most significant contaminants, posing serious and sometimes life threatening health hazards.

2.1.1     Lead

Lead (Pb) is a bluish-grey metal that occurs naturally in minute amounts within the Earth’s crust.  It has also been referred to as plumbum, lead metal, and pigment metal(Environmental writer; lead chemical backgrounder. 2000). Frequent use in many industrial processes is the main reason for lead contamination of the environment.

2.1.2    Sources of Lead                                                                                                          

There are a variety of industrial processes that involve the use of lead, as well as sources by which lead can be released to the environment for example to the soil, such as mining, smelting, manufacture of pesticides and fertilizers, dumping of municipal sewage and the burning of fossil fuels that contain a lead additive. Many commercial products and materials also contain lead including paints, ceramic glazes, television glass, ammunition, batteries, medical equipment (,i.e., x-ray shields, fetal monitors), and electrical equipment . The uses of lead for roofing and the production of ammunition has increased from previous years (Environmental writer; lead chemical backgrounder.2000).Ionic lead (Pb2+), lead oxides and hydroxides and lead-metal oxyanion complexes are the general forms of lead that are  released into the soil, groundwater and surface waters.  (Meagher,R.B.1998)

2.1.3    Problems of Consuming Excess  Lead

Lead accumulates in the body organs (brain), leads to poisoning (plumbism)or even death. The gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and central nervous system are also affected by the presence of lead. Children exposed to lead are at risk for impaired development, lower IQ, shortened attention span, hyperactivity, and mental deterioration, with children under the age of six being at a more substantial risk. Adults usually experience decreased reaction time, loss of memory, nausea, insomnia, anorexia, and weakness of the joints when exposed to lead.(Environmental Writer; Lead Chemical backgrounder.2000)

2.1.4    Benefits of Lead to Plants and Animals                                                                        Lead have been reported to have no known bio-importance in plants and human biochemistry and physiology and consumption even at low concentration can be toxic(Holum,1983;European Union,2002;Nolan2003;Young,2005)

2.1.5    Zinc and Its Sources

Zinc is a bluish-white colored metal, it is the 24th most abundant element in the earth crust Its occurs naturally in air, water and soil, but zinc concentrations rises unnaturally due to addition of zinc through activities(copyright1998-2016 Lenntech B.V)                                                     2.1.6    Sources

Zinc are mostly spread during industrial activities, such as mining, coal and waste combustion and steel processing. Some soils are contaminated with zinc, and these are to be found in areas where zinc has been mined or refined or sewage sludge from industrial areas has been used as fertilizers. zinc rich soils only a limited number of plant has the chance of survival  (copyright1998-2016 Lenntech B.V).

2.1.7    Problems of Consuming Excess of Zinc to Human Health

Zinc is essential to human life when consumed in the right proportion, too much zinc causes eminent problems such as stomach cramps, skin irritation, vomiting, nausea, and anemia, very high concentration of zinc can damage the pancreas and disturb the protein metabolism, and cause arteriosclerosis(copyright1998-2016 Lenntech B.V)

2.1.8    Benefits Zinc to Plants and Animal                                                                                               Zinc is a masculine element that balances copper in the body, and it is also essential for male reproductive activities[Nolan,2003], it serves as a co-factor for dehydrating enzymes and in carbonic anhydrase[Holum,1983]


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