Date: 09 Aug 2011

Heavy Metal Pollution: Source, Impact, and Remedies

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Although some heavy metals are essential trace elements, most of them can be toxic to all forms of life at high concentrations due to formation of complex compounds within the cell. Unlike organic pollutants, heavy metals once introduced into the environment cannot be biodegraded. They persist indefinitely and cause pollution of air, water, and soils. Thus, the main strategies of pollution control are to reduce the bioavailability, mobility, and toxicity of metals. Methods for remediation of heavy metal-contaminated environments include physical removal, detoxification, bioleaching, and phytoremediation. Because heavy metals are increasingly found in microbial habitats due to natural and industrial processes, microorganisms have evolved several mechanisms to tolerate their presence by adsorption, complexation, or chemical reduction of metal ions or to use them as terminal electron acceptors in anaerobic respiration. In heavy metals, pollution abatement, microbial sensors, and transformations are getting increased focus because of high efficiency and cost effectiveness. The sources and impacts of heavy metal pollution as well as various remediation techniques are described.