Scientists have researched specific plants that can help clean up contaminated sites. Using plants to clean soil is called phytoremediation.
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Many common prairie plants, like coneflower, survive large amounts of hydrocarbon contamination. To read more about using plants to help remediate contaminated soils, read here. Chromated copper arsenate CCA is an inorganic pesticide. It can be used as a wood preservative to prolong the life of lumber. Since , chromated copper arsenate has not been used to treat wood used for outdoor residential structures.
However, it is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency to treat wood products that could be used in residential settings shakes, shingles, and fence posts. The chemicals found in chromated copper arsenic are chromium, copper, and arsenic. Until , it was one of the most common wood preservatives used to treat wood for residential structures such as decks, playground equipment, and picnic tables. Creosote is used as a commercial wood preservative.
It can prolong the life of wood products such as railroad ties and utility poles. Creosote is made through the distillation of coal tar and is composed of numerous chemicals. Some of these hydrocarbons may be harmful to people. Creosote is not approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to treat wood for residential use. Arsenic is a naturally-occurring element that can be found in rocks, soil, water, and food.
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Organic arsenic is formed when arsenic is combined with a carbon substance, while inorganic arsenic contains no carbon. Of the two forms, inorganic arsenic is more toxic and is a known carcinogen. People are commonly exposed to inorganic arsenic through contaminated drinking water. Some regions in the world naturally contain high levels of arsenic in the bedrock and soils. People living near these structures can be exposed through dust and direct skin contact with the ground.
Inorganic arsenic can vary in its toxicity. Chemical reactions occur between various forms of arsenic and oxygen. You might be familiar with the oxidation process between iron and oxygen that creates rust. Arsenic reacts with oxygen in similar ways. Depending on conditions, various chemical formulas of arsenic can be formed. The two most common, arsenite and arsenate, are known carcinogens.
These two forms are the most abundant forms of arsenic found in soil and groundwater. Inorganic forms of arsenic were used as common pesticides in the early s. Most were banned from use in the s. Organic forms of arsenic can form through the food chain. They can often be found in fish and shellfish in areas naturally containing, or contaminated with, arsenic. Other forms of organic arsenic have historically been used as a feed additive in the poultry and swine industries.
As a medicine, it can limit intestinal infections from a protozoa and thus promote weight gain. The arsenic can enter the soil through the manure. Organic forms of arsenic are generally less toxic than inorganic forms. Read about research on naturally-occuring arsenic in soils here , and arsenic and other contaminants here.
People ingesting large amounts of inorganic arsenic may experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. People in direct skin contact with chronic or large concentrations of arsenic may experience skin lesions and blisters. Long term exposure to high levels of arsenic may lead to an increased risk of diabetes and certain types of cancer often in the skin, lungs, and bladder. Creosote may enter the body through ingestion or through skin contact. Inhalation of creosote vapor is also possible.
Exposure to even low levels of creosote may result in several serious health problems. Of course, avoiding creosote contamination is the best defense. Wearing long sleeves, pants, and gloves can help keep you safe near possible contaminated soil. A thorough hand-washing is important after working with contaminated soil. If you suspect your soil is contaminated or that you have been exposed, contact your state health department for guidance. Chromated copper arsenate is water soluble. Wood treated with chromated copper arsenate that is exposed to rain may leach the chemical into the soil adjacent to and beneath the structure.
This includes decks or playground equipment. Repurposed railroad ties may seem like a fun idea, but they are often contaminated with creosote. Wood treated with creosote may contain high concentrations several years after treatment.
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Creosote from treated wood can leach into the soil, or volatilize. This makes contact with the wood a potential harm. Outdoor structures built with treated wood before likely contain chromated copper arsenate. This type of lumber often has a green tint.
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If the treated wood was not sealed with a stain or sealant, it is likely the soil beneath the structure contains elevated levels of chromated copper arsenate. To determine if the soil has elevated levels of chromium, copper, and arsenic, a soil sample may be sent to an accredited soil testing laboratory. Inquire at your local land grant institution for soil testing near you.
Raised beds, steps, and retaining walls made from recycled railroad ties could mean creosote has leached into the surrounding soil. There is no soil test available at this time to measure the level of hydrocarbons. If you suspect soil or water may be contaminated with creosote, you should contact your state health department for guidance.
Working with contaminated soil is not a do-it-yourself option. Contact your state health department for guidance. By far, the most common type of contaminant in an urban soil is lead. Elevated lead in urban soil comes from the historic use of leaded gasoline and lead paint. Your soil is most likely to be contaminated with lead if you live next to a very busy, high traffic road that has existed for more than 40 years.
Lead in exhaust from cars when leaded gasoline was still in use will have contaminated the soil. Lead paint may have chipped off your home and landed in the soil directly next to the house. But if you live in an older home or near a busy street, your soil may have high lead.
Lead is primarily dangerous for kids. Because they are growing, little kids are much more efficient at absorbing lead than adults. Excessive exposure to lead can cause developmental delays, reduce brain function, and result in damage to motor skills. Kids and adults are not exposed to lead just by touching lead-contaminated soils. However, they can be exposed to lead by breathing in high-lead dust or eating lead-contaminated soil.
Barren, lead-contaminated soil poses a much greater risk than lead-contaminated soil that covered by vegetation. Soil covered by plants is also much less likely to be taken up by the wind and end up as dust in your house. Kids are at greater risk both because they absorb lead much more efficiently than adults and because they are much more likely to eat soil than adults. Some kids will eat soil on purpose; this is called Pica behavior. Almost all kids will eat soil by accident. Licking ice cream off dirty hands is a classic way that kids ingest soil.
Plants do not take up lead on purpose, because lead is not a plant nutrient. This is because an empty stomach is very acidic, which makes the lead in soil or food more soluble and more easily absorbed. A full stomach, in contrast, is not acidic and so the lead will be much less soluble.
In addition, there are many other elements that the body needs, including iron, zinc, and calcium, that will be absorbed instead of the lead. This information is included when you have your soil tested for total metal concentrations. Testing for total metals is done by dissolving your soil in concentrated acid.
A standard method for this is the U. EPA extraction. But many labs will use a standard soil fertility test in lieu of measuring total metal concentrations. The total soil lead concentration that is cause for concern varies by whom you ask. The U. Soil lead concentrations limits have not been established to protect people from eating plants grown in lead-contaminated soil, because plants generally take up almost no lead. The primary way you can be exposed to lead from plants grown on lead-contaminated soil is by eating plants that have not been fully washed.
In other words, washing vegetables before you eat them is the best way to reduce any chance of lead exposure. You should be aware, however, that total soil lead concentrations are not always a good measure of the portion of lead that can cause harm. Other factors, such as lead paint in older homes and household dust, can have much bigger impacts. How important the soil is for lead poisoning depends on how high the lead concentration is in the soil, how much bare soil is around, how much time your children spend outside playing in the soil, and so on.
Rehabilitation approaches in the urban environment, such as brownfield redevelopment and urban mining, are discussed. In relation to contaminated land, techniques for soil containment and decontamination of soil, soil vapour and groundwater are comprehensively and systematically presented. Complicated treatment techniques are schematically depicted and can be readily understood. This book will be a useful tool for students, researchers, private consultants and public authorities engaged in the treatment of contaminated or disturbed land.
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