Superfund Research Program
Remediation of Asbestos Particles
- Project Summary
To minimize health risk from asbestos waste piles or open asbestos mine sites, the research team is exploring phytoremediation as a cost-effective and sustainable remediation strategy. In this study, researchers screened plant species for phytoremediation by conducting greenhouse experiments. In one greenhouse experiment, eight cultivar crops were grown in a soil from the BoRit Superfund site (Ambler, PA), which has confirmed high concentrations of asbestos but low concentrations of heavy metals. The researchers compared plant growth to growth in a control medium (compost and sand). Three crops showed significant higher growth in BoRit soils than in the control medium: Brassica oleraceae, Andropogon gerardii and Sorghum bicolor. In a second greenhouse experiment, researchers used two grasses species (A. gerardii and Sorghastrum nutans) to test the effect of seed source (serpentine ecotype vs commercial cultivar) and soil microbial inoculum (serpentine soil with live microbial inoculum or sterile soil) on the plant growth and health on BoRit soil. Researchers wanted to test whether the soil inoculum from the serpentine site with naturally occurring asbestos would improve plant growth on the BoRit soil because the inoculum includes beneficial fungi such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. The addition of serpentine inoculum had no effect on biomass. These two experiments showed that crop cultivars can thrive in the presence of asbestos in soil, suggesting phytoremediation can be a promising strategy for remediation of asbestos contaminated sites.