About the book
Heavy metals are chemical elements of high density and high atomic weight. They are often highly toxic (e.g. mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, thallium and lead) and cause adverse effects already at very low concentrations. Although a subset of heavy metals at low concentrations is considered essential micronutrients, excessive concentrations of them are hazardous to living organisms because of their toxicity. Non-essential heavy metals such as chromium, cadmium, lead, antimony, mercury and arsenic are the most important representatives for studying water and soil contamination.
Nowadays, environmental contamination with heavy metals is one of the most severe environmental issues, which needs the synergistic action of the scientific community, the general public and diverse authorities. Unfortunately, industrial effluents containing hazardous residues are frequently discharged into the ecosystem, thus resulting in harmful effects to the environment. One of the principal sources of heavy metal pollution near rivers and estuarine streams is the intensified industrial use of metals and the process of leaching of mine tailings, hence, the drainage of untreated mines. The infiltration of heavy metals into watercourses is generally accompanied by sediment deposits that result in a high concentration of heavy metals in water, sediments and aquatic organisms. In various developing and emerging countries, studies have shown that agricultural land irrigated with wastewater contributes about 50% of plant resources to urban areas, hence, is of utmost importance for food security. Based on economic considerations, farmers are often forced to maximize production in order to generate profit, regardless of environmental concerns or human health.
Conventional decontamination technologies used to clean up contaminated metal sites are relatively insensitive, costly and time-consuming, often dangerous for workers, and produce secondary waste, which in turn displays another environmental threat. Innovative and sustainable techniques could be promising solutions to remediation of heavy metal contamination.