Subtropical plant can extract lead from soil

By on March 20, 2012

A native Indian grass used to make textiles and perfumes has shown promise as a hypoaccumulator, a plant that can absorb toxic material without suffering. The grass, vetiver, can absorb lead in soil and store it in its roots. Vetiver thrives in southern states, but researchers hope it can survive the colder climate of the northern United States where states like New Jersey suffer from lead contamination. The chemical, once used in motor fuel and paint, is poisonous to humans. Children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning when they play outside and put their hands in their mouth.

Vetiver is one of several plants being used to clean soil and water in a process known as bioremediation. Though the contaminants will no longer be in the soil, the contaminated plants still pose a biohazard and must be removed. However, plants condense the toxins and reduce the biomass that needs to be disposed of.


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