Problem: Lead contamination is a serious problem. More than 50% of the sites listed on the EPA’s National Priority List have listed Pb as one of their main contaminants. High Pb levels can lead to serious health problems in humans, especially in children. This contamination is caused by a number of industrial processes, including mining, smelting, manufacture of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as numerous commercial products, such as paint and batteries. While new regulations limit the amount of Pb released from vehicle emissions, large amounts still remain in the environment. A variety of remediation technologies exist to address this problem, though one of the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly options may be phytoremediation: the use of plant materials to degrade, extract, or immobilize contaminants in soil or water. Accumulation of Pb in woody tissues would be particularly advantageous, but we know very little of whether trees can take up and accumulate Pb.
Goal: The goal of this study is to evaluate the potential of urban trees to accumulate lead in their tissues.
Methods: In 2013, a microcosm study was conducted to examine the effects of EDTA and biochar application on the Pb uptake by two urban trees (Platanus x acerifolia and Salix alba). An herbaceous species, Brassica juncea (known hyper-accumulator of Pb) is also being studied.
Collaborators: This project is led by Dr. Bryant Scharenbroch and Heather Norris (U Illinois).
Funding: The Morton Arboretum.
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