Phytoremediation is the use of green plants to remove pollutants from the environment or render them harmless. Current engineering-based technolo-gies used to clean up soils — like the removal of contaminated topsoil for storage in landfills — are very costly and dramatically disturb the landscape. But the “green” technology of using plants to take up heavy metals and radioisotopes can, in certain situations, provide a more economical approach and one that is less disruptive as well.
Certain plant species — known as metal hyperaccumulators — have the ability to extract elements from the soil and concentrate them in the easily har-vested plant stems, shoots, and leaves. These plant tissues can be collected, reduced in volume, and stored for later use. In addition, of course, while acting as vacuum cleaners these unique plants must also be able to tolerate and survive high levels of heavy metals in soils — like zinc, cadmium, and nickel.
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