Bioremediation offers the possibility of using living organisms (bacteria, fungi, algae,or plants), but primarily microorganisms, to degrade or remove environmental contaminants, and transform them into nontoxic or less-toxic forms. The major advantages of bioremediation over conventional physicochemical and biological treatment methods include low cost, good efficiency, minimization of chemicals, reduced quantity of secondary sludge, regeneration of cell biomass, and the possibility of recover-ing pollutant metals. Leather industries, which extensively employ chromium compounds in the tanning process, discharge spent-chromium-laden effluent into nearby water bodies. Worldwide, chromium is known to be one of the most common inorganic contaminants of groundwater at pollutant hazardous sites. Hexavalent chromium poses a health risk to all forms of life. Bioremediation of chromium extant in tannery waste involves different strategies that include biosorption, bioaccumulation,bioreduction, and immobilization of biomaterial(s). Biosorption is a nondirected physiochemical interaction that occurs between metal species and the cellular components of biological species. It is metabolism-dependent when living biomass is employed, and metabolism-independent in dead cell biomass. Dead cell biomass is much more effective than living cell biomass at biosorping heavy metals, including chromium. Bioaccumulation is a metabolically active process in living organisms that works through adsorption, intracellular accumulation, and bioprecipitation mechanisms. In bioreduction processes, microorganisms alter the oxidation/reduction state of toxic metals through direct or indirect biological and chemical process(es).Bioreduction of Cr6+ to Cr3+ not only decreases the chromium toxicity to living organisms, but also helps precipitate chromium at a neutral pH for further physical removal,thus offering promise as a bioremediation strategy. However, biosorption, bioaccumulation, and bioreduction methods that rely on free cells for bioremediation suffer from Cr6 toxicity, and cell damage. Therefore, immobilization of microbial cell biomass enhances bioremediation and renders industrial bioremediation processes more economically viable from reduced free-cells toxicity, easier separation of biosorbents from the tannery effluent, ability to achieve multiple biosorption cycles, and desorption (elution) of metal(s) from matrices for reuse. Thus, microbial bioremediation can be a cost competitive strategy and beneficial bioresource for removing many hazardous contaminants from tannery and other industrial wastes.
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