Arsenic in Groundwater

Arsenic in Groundwater

Groundwater and soil contaminated with arsenic affects millions of people worldwide.  When arsenic makes its way into drinking water, crops and meats. The bioaccumulation of arsenic in the body can cause skin lesions, cancer and various other illnesses.

Recent studies in Current Biology by Professor Jody Banks and Chao Cai at Purdue University show that Chinese brake fern, Pteris vittata, naturally accumulates arsenic.  The levels of arsenic in these ferns would kill most other organisms.  However,  these ferns continue to thrive.

Arsenic fern - Viable Alternativenergy
Purdue University researchers have determined the genetic mechanisms that allow the fern to withstand arsenic, which could lead to the modification of other plants that could remediate contamination even more quickly and efficiently. Agricultural Communication/Tom Campbell

“Other researchers have shown that this fern, when grown on arsenic-contaminated soils, can remove almost 50 percent of the arsenic in five years,” Banks said. “It takes time, but it’s cheap.”

By understanding the biochemical mechanisms used by this fern to thrive in conditions of high levels of arsenic.  In the future, the genes in this fern could be used to remediate the presence of arsenic in soil and groundwater.

Feature Image:

Arsenic labels - Viable Alternativenergy
Arsenic labels. Image: Mildred Williams | Viable AlternativEnergy

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