Though this is a cumbersome word that hasn’t yet reached any of my dictionaries, it has become a moderately common technical term in recent years because of its environmental implications. Phytoremediation is just beginning practical application after years of research, and the word is now starting to turn up in non-specialist areas such as newspaper articles.
It refers to a variety of techniques using plants and trees to clean up sites that are contaminated with heavy metals such as lead or cadmium, or with organic compounds like pesticides or solvents. In the case of the metals, species are grown which are known to concentrate the contaminants in their tissues; plants can then be harvested and burnt to release the pollutant, which can often be recycled. Organic pollutants are often treated with plants that take them up and destroy them as part of their normal metabolic processes. Phytoremediation can be a lot cheaper than conventional methods, which usually involve removing the topsoil layer completely and replacing it with uncontaminated soil, but it is usually much slower.
The word is a combination of the prefix phyto-, “plant” (from the Greek phutos) with remediation, the action of remedying something, especially environmental damage.
With international conferences, coverage in scientific and trade journals, and industry and government-sponsored implementation, phytoremediation is a significant and growing niche in the environmental marketplace.
Environmental Technology, Sep. 1998
Because they also absorb and concentrate toxic metals, such as lead, these natural collectors could help to decontaminate industrial waste sites, a process known as phytoremediation.
Economist, Oct 1998
Search World Wide Words
Recently added pieces
Mammock; Mx; Stepney; Vape; Bridegroom; Lilly-low; The Language Myth by Vyvyan Evans; Boot and trunk; Zoilism; Fish-faced; Poach; Immensikoff; Habiliments; The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker; Agister; The Word at War; Not so green as you’re cabbage-looking.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!