A team of researchers has announced that they have discovered a type of moss capable of combating lead pollution in water supplies. The latter is indeed able to absorb the heavy metal in its cell walls.
Lead contaminated water is dangerous for human health. For example, in children, the presence of metal can lead to behavioral and learning problems, stunting and anemia. Lead can also cause fetal growth or premature birth in pregnant women, and can seriously affect kidney function in adults.
However, removing lead from polluted water sources is not easy, current techniques require fossil fuels and a huge amount of energy. What if we could – once again – rely on nature?
Phytoremediation is a method that relies on photosynthetic organisms to clean soil or water contamination. A team of researchers at Japan’s RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science says that it has discovered that a type of moss called Funaria hygrometrica – or fire moss – can help remove heavy metals from contaminated water. The plant could in fact absorb up to 74% of its dry weight in lead after just 22 hours of exposure. This discovery could clean up the world’s polluted water supply. The moss also seems able to absorb tin, gold and platinum.
Funaria hygrometrica is a useful biomaterial capable of cleaning wastewater, particularly from mining and chemical industries. “Contamination of water with heavy metals from industrial activities is a serious environmental concern,” says the study. “The development of alternative, environmentally friendly remediation technologies based on CO2-containing organisms would be an important step towards more sustainable industrial processes.”