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Impact and toxicity of heavy metals on human health and latest trends in removal process from aquatic media

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Contamination by toxic heavy metals is a serious issue due to their toxicity, persistence, and bioaccumulative nature. They are released into the environment and reach the human body, as individuals or metal mixtures, causing serious biological and physiological complications. The detoxification actions should begin with modifications within the ecosystem, especially in aquatic media, where these metals are mainly dispersed due to the continuous increased industrial activities. Here, the main intention is to provide useful update of the impacts of toxic metals on human health, their mechanisms of toxicity, and the predictive models for the estimation of metal mixtures toxicity. Besides, current studies on the sorption of toxic heavy metals from the aquatic media are reviewed, with a focus on the most convenient categories of sorbent materials (nanomaterials, waste-derived materials, and their combination), and the parameters affecting the sorption process (pH, temperature, sorbent dose, contact time, and the presence of other chemical species). The selection of the most convenient sorbent depends on many parameters, mainly the presence of multi-component metals and the variation of the experimental conditions. Therefore, the development of sustainable sorbents that combine nano- and biotechnologies may provide an innovative impulse for the sorptive removal of toxic metals in aquatic media. In real industrial media, the uptake procedures of toxic metals conducted on the laboratory scale may not be applicable. Hence, the development of sustainable systems for the sorptive removal of toxic metals is required.

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The data used in this review are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This work was supported by OCP S.A and Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) (Project AS 100). The authors would like to thank OCP Innovation and UM6P.


This research was supported by OCP S.A and Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) under Project AS 100.

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Authors and Affiliations



HM performed writing—original draft; HN performed supervision, validation, review and editing, and funding acquisition; HBY, II, VT, AO, and GM performed validation, and review and editing; AB contributed to supervision, validation, review and editing, funding acquisition, and project administration. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to H. Noukrati.

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This work is original; it has not been published before and is not currently being considered for publication elsewhere.

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Editorial responsibility: Maryam Shabani.

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Moukadiri, H., Noukrati, H., Ben Youcef, H. et al. Impact and toxicity of heavy metals on human health and latest trends in removal process from aquatic media. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. 21, 3407–3444 (2024).

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