Phosphorous in the environment: characteristics with distribution and effects, removal mechanisms, treatment technologies, and factors affecting recovery as minerals in natural and engineered systems

  • Hossain M AzamEmail author
  • Seemi Tasnim Alam
  • Mahmudul Hasan
  • Djigui David Stéphane Yameogo
  • Arvind Damodara Kannan
  • Arifur Rahman
  • Man Jae KwonEmail author
Review Article


Phosphorus (P), an essential element for living cells, is present in different soluble and adsorbed chemical forms found in soil, sediment, and water. Most species are generally immobile and easily adsorbed onto soil particles. However, P is a major concern owing to its serious environmental effects (e.g., eutrophication, scale formation) when found in excess in natural or engineered environments. Commercial chemicals, fertilizers, sewage effluent, animal manure, and agricultural waste are the major sources of P pollution. But there is limited P resources worldwide. Therefore, the fate, effects, and transport of P in association with its removal, treatment, and recycling in natural and engineered systems are important. P removal and recycling technologies utilize different types of physical, biological, and chemical processes. Moreover, P minerals (struvite, vivianite, etc.) can precipitate and form scales in drinking water and wastewater systems. Hence, P minerals (e.g., struvite, vivianite etc.) are problems when left uncontrolled and unmonitored although their recovery is beneficial (e.g., slow release fertilizers, sustainable P sources, soil enhancers). Sources like wastewater, human waste, waste nutrient solution, etc. can be used for P recycling. This review paper extensively summarizes the importance and distribution of P in different environmental compartments, the effects of P in natural and engineered systems, P removal mechanisms through treatment, and recycling technologies specially focusing on various types of phosphate mineral precipitation. In particular, the factors controlling mineral (e.g., struvite and vivianite) precipitation in natural and engineered systems are also discussed.


Phosphorus removal Mineral precipitation Mineral recycling Struvite Vivianite 


Funding information

This work was supported by a Nuclear Core Technology of the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP) grant funded by the Korean government’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (No. 20171510300670), a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korean government (MSIT) (No. 2018R1A2B6001660), and the Environmental Engineering Program of Manhattan College, NY, USA.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringManhattan CollegeBronxUSA
  2. 2.Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST)GangneungsiSouth Korea
  3. 3.University of Science and TechnologyDaejeonSouth Korea
  4. 4.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringThe George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  5. 5.Freese and Nichols, Inc.DallasUSA
  6. 6.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesKorea UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

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