Phytoremediation of Heavy Metal-Contaminated Sites: Eco-environmental Concerns, Field Studies, Sustainability Issues, and Future Prospects

  • Gaurav Saxena
  • Diane Purchase
  • Sikandar I. Mulla
  • Ganesh Dattatraya Saratale
  • Ram Naresh BharagavaEmail author
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 249)


Environmental contamination due to heavy metals (HMs) is of serious ecotoxicological concern worldwide because of their increasing use at industries. Due to non-biodegradable and persistent nature, HMs cause serious soil/water pollution and severe health hazards in living beings upon exposure. HMs can be genotoxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic in nature even at low concentration. They may also act as endocrine disruptors and induce developmental as well as neurological disorders, and thus, their removal from our natural environment is crucial for the rehabilitation of contaminated sites. To cope with HM pollution, phytoremediation has emerged as a low-cost and eco-sustainable solution to conventional physicochemical cleanup methods that require high capital investment and labor alter soil properties and disturb soil microflora. Phytoremediation is a green technology wherein plants and associated microbes are used to remediate HM-contaminated sites to safeguard the environment and protect public health. Hence, in view of the above, the present paper aims to examine the feasibility of phytoremediation as a sustainable remediation technology for the management of metal-contaminated sites. Therefore, this paper provides an in-depth review on both the conventional and novel phytoremediation approaches; evaluates their efficacy to remove toxic metals from our natural environment; explores current scientific progresses, field experiences, and sustainability issues; and revises world over trends in phytoremediation research for its wider recognition and public acceptance as a sustainable remediation technology for the management of contaminated sites in the twenty-first century.


Agromining Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Aromatic plants Constructed wetlands Contaminated sites Endophytes Energy crops Engineered plants Environmental pollution Field studies Heavy metals Hyperaccumulators Molecular mechanism Phytoextraction Phytomining Phytoremediation Phytostabilization Phytotechnologies Phytovolatilization Rhizodegradation Rhizofiltration Toxicity Trophic transfer 



ATP-binding cassettes


1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate deaminase




Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi




Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry


Bioconcentration factor


Citric acid


Cation exchangers




Cation diffusion facilitators




Copper transporters






Constructed wetlands




Daily intake of metal


Diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid


Dry weight


Ethylenediamine-di(o-hydroxyphenylacetic acid)


Ethylenediamine-N,N′-disuccinic acid


Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid


Ethyleneglycolbis(b-aminoethyl ether),N,N,N0,N-tetraacetic acid


Electrokinetic field


Evapotranspiration caps


European Union




Genetically engineered plants




High-density lipoprotein


N-Hydroxyethylenediaminetriacetic acid




Heavy-metal ATPase


Heavy metals


Indole acetic acid


International Agency for Research on Cancer


Life cycle assessment


Low-density lipoprotein


Microbial fuel cell


Membrane transporter proteins






Nitrilotriacetic acid


Polyaromatic hydrocarbons




Polychlorinated biphenyl




Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria


Plant-microbial fuel cell


Plant-microbe interactions


Reactive oxygen species


Soil beneficial microorganisms




Translocation factor


US Environmental Protection Agency


World Health Organization


Zinc-iron permease



The financial support as “Major Research Projects” (Grant No.: EEQ/2017/000407) from the “Science and Engineering Research Board” (SERB), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India (GOI), New Delhi, India, and University Grants Commission (UGC) Fellowship received by Mr. Gaurav Saxena for doctoral studies is duly acknowledged. Authors are also extremely thankful to the anonymous reviewers for valuable comments/suggestions for improvement in the review article.

Declarations of Interest

Authors have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gaurav Saxena
    • 1
  • Diane Purchase
    • 2
  • Sikandar I. Mulla
    • 3
  • Ganesh Dattatraya Saratale
    • 4
  • Ram Naresh Bharagava
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratory for Bioremediation and Metagenomics Research (LBMR), Department of Environmental Microbiology (DEM)Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (A Central University)LucknowIndia
  2. 2.Department of Natural Sciences, Faculty of Science and TechnologyMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK
  3. 3.CAS Key Laboratory of Urban Pollutant ConversionInstitute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of SciencesXiamenPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Food Science and BiotechnologyDongguk University-SeoulGoyang-siRepublic of Korea

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