Scientific American: Pollution-Busting Plants

by Gilbert Keith

Scientific American: Pollution-Busting Plants
October 15, 2007

Pollution-Busting Plants

Transgenic trees and plants may break down the pollutants left behind at sites ranging from former factories to firing ranges

A French hybrid of an aspen tree may one day rid water supplies of the industrial degreaser—and human carcinogen—trichloroethylene (TCE), one of the most common contaminants at toxic waste sites in the U.S. And the tiny, but tractable, Arabidopsis plant may mop up the residue of RDX, a military explosive blasted into the soils at firing ranges.

“Plants are a good method for remediating soil and water,” says Stuart Strand, an environmental engineer at the University of Washington who has worked on creating the genetically modified pollution-gobbling aspen tree. Even in their natural state, such trees and plants absorb environmental contaminants and break them down into harmless components—all with the power of the sun.
That is pretty impressive. Places will become more liveable, hopefully. It will be awesome if they can modify more plants to do this stuff.