Researchers have found that a common wetland plant native to Australia can remove toxic “forever chemicals” from the surrounding environment.
In a 190-day greenhouse experiment, a team of Chinese and Australian researchers found that Juncus sarophorus, a wetland plant also known as the broom rush, could tolerate and accumulate PFOS, PFOA and PFHxS, three of the most commonly studied PFAS chemicals.
PFAS are a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals used since the 1940s to produce industrial products resistant to water, oil, grease and stains.
"We found the wetland plant Juncus sarophorus has a high tolerance to PFAS and capable of overall PFAS removal rates between 9% and 11% at a time, which could be increased with floating reed beds in the water column. It also is effective at accumulating and transferring PFOA and PFHxS from the soil to an above-ground vegetation biomass," said Flinders University hydrogeologist and study co-author Ilka Wallis.
The researchers said the study provides more evidence that phytoremediation, the use of plants to extract pollutants from soil, could present a potential remediation strategy for PFAS that would allow efficient and cost-effective remediation at large scales.