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Technologies for heavy metal remediation in water with emphasis on processes and applications

Abstract

Francois Botha Nadine and Candice de Villiers

In small quantities, certain heavy metals are nutritionally essential for a healthy life. The heavy metals linked most often to human poisoning are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Other heavy metals, including copper, zinc and chromium are actually required by the body in small amounts, but can also be toxic in larger doses. They have the ability of dissolving in wastewaters and when discharged into surface waters, they can be concentrated and travel up the food chain. They can also seep into groundwater, hence contaminating drinking water, thereby harming the consumers of that water. The enactment of several water legislations and guidelines worldwide coupled with the need for environmental sustainability has necessitated the need for several stringent regulations for drinking water supply and wastewater discharge. To achieve unpolluted drinking water distribution and wastewater discharge, several technologies and processes for heavy metal remediation are currently in use. This review was therefore aimed at elucidating the major available technologies for heavy metal remediation in water, with emphasis on their processes and applications. Currently, no one of the existing technologies for heavy metal remediation (chemical remediation, phytoremediation or microbial remediation) is without some form of merits and demerits. There is therefore a proposed need for the utilization of safe and economical multiple/integrated approach for heavy metal remediation. The application of this may offer enormous public health, environmental and cost benefits.

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