Mighty Moss Battles Heavy Metal Pollution

March 6, 2018
Plant could be used to treat wastewater in the mining and chemical industries or in municipal water systems contaminated with lead.

Researchers in Japan discover a species of moss that can suck up lead and other heavy metals, a potential boon for treating polluted water and contaminated industrial sites, according to an article from Inside Science. The discovery also portends a more sustainable alternative to traditional lead removal methods, such as chemical sedimentation, electro-deposition or ion-exchange adsorption, which rely on fossil fuels, expend more energy and emit carbon dioxide.

The moss, funaria hygrometrica, which is often found growing at industrial sites such as mines contaminated with heavy metals, absorbs large amounts of lead into its cell walls as it grows, according to the article. Because it can grow in water without latching onto soil or rocks, the moss may be used to treat wastewater or in municipal water systems contaminated with lead, such as in Flint, Michigan. Scientists have reportedly identified around 400 plants that can clean up heavy metal pollution – a process known as phytoremediation.

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