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The influence of humic acids on the phytoextraction of cadmium from soil

: Evangelou, M.W.H.; Daghan, H.; Schaeffer, A.


Chemosphere 57 (2004), Nr.3, S.207-213
ISSN: 0045-6535
ISSN: 0366-7111
Fraunhofer IME ()
phytoremediation; cadmium; humic acids; chelate assisted; tobacco

Cadmium poses a major environmental and human health threat because of its constant release through anthropogenic activities. A need, therefore, exists for cost-effective remediation procedures. Phytoremediation, the use of plants to extract contaminants from soils and groundwater, has revealed great potential. However, it is limited by the fact that plants need time, nutrient supply and, moreover, have a limited metal uptake capacity. Synthetic chelators have shown positive effects in enhancing heavy metal extraction through phytoremediation, but they have also revealed a vast number of negative side-effects. The objective of this research was to investigate the use of humic acids as an alternative to synthetic chelators. Humic acids were applied to a cadmium-contaminated soil at various dosages, and the uptake of cadmium into Nicotiana tabacum SR-1 was determined in relation to the amounts of total and bioavailable cadmium in the soil. It was found that the theoretical bioavailability of cadmium, as determined by diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA) extraction, did not change, but its plant uptake was enhanced significantly, in some cases up to 65%. Humic acids added at a rate of 2 gkg(exp -1) soil increased the cadmium concentration in the shoots from 30.9 to 39.9 mg kg(exp -1). A possible reason for this enhancement is the decrease in pH, resulting in higher cadmium availability. Another possibility taken into account is that plants may take up cadmium complexes with humic acid fragments, which result from microbiological degradation or, self-dissociation.