Plants take up heavy metal contaminants from the soil through their roots and accumulate them in their leaves or stems.

Phytoremediation uses plants to treat soils contaminated with heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic, and chromium). The plants use phytoextraction to uptake heavy metal contaminants from the soil and store them in their roots, stems, and leaves (1).

By absorbing the heavy metals, the plants clean the surrounding soil, preventing the metals from leaking into nearby water sources, being kicked up into the air and inhaled, and contaminating gardens in future use. Plants particularly good at extracting heavy metals are called hyperaccumulators (1). Many hyperaccumulators have been found, but further studies are needed to determine which plants are best suited to treat particular heavy metals.

Our goal is to remediate the soil of lead and other heavy metals and decrease exposure to children in Atlanta. In order to accomplish this, we are using plants whose seeds are easily accessible to the community, grow well in Georgia, and are cost effective. We are currently growing plants for fall and winter, and will adjust plants as the seasons change.

The following plants are being used now:

Disposal Plan: Incineration

Plants used for phytoremediation are not safe for consumption and should be disposed of properly.

Other remediators:

  1. Armeria maritima
  2. Chaney, R., Malik, M., Li, Y., Brown, S., Brewer, E., Angle, J. and Baker, A. (1997). Phytoremediation of soil metals. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, [online] 8(3), pp.279-284.