Phytoremediation of ethylene glycol and its derivatives by the burhead plant (Echinodorus cordifolius (L.)): effect of molecular size.

PMID 20943250


Ethylene glycol (EG) is a group of dihydroxy alcohol that has been utilised in a variety of industrial and residential settings. EG contaminated wastewater has a high chemical oxygen demand (COD), which causes environmental problems. The aim of this research was to investigate the efficiency of the burhead plant (Echinodorus cordifolius (L.)) in the removal of mono-, di- and triethylene glycol (MEG, DEG and TEG), the first three members of the dihydroxy alcohol group, from synthetic wastewaters, to examine the toxic effect of EG on the plant and to identify differences among MEG, DEG, and TEG removal. It was found that the COD of synthetic wastewaters decreased to levels below the standard effluent (COD=120 mg L⁻¹) on day 18, 21 and 33 for MEG, DEG and TEG, respectively. On day 18 of the experiment, the burhead plant removed approximately 2000, 1950 and 730 mg L⁻¹ of MEG, DEG and TEG, respectively. The removal rate of MEG was faster than that of DEG and TEG, suggesting that the molecular size of the EG had affected its rate of removal. The concentrations of MEG, DEG, and TEG in plant tissue were measured to show that burhead can take up EG, and the major site of EG accumulation is the leaf. The molar of MEG that was taken up into the plant leaf was higher than that of DEG and TEG. This suggested that EG of smaller molecular sizes can be taken up more rapidly by the plant than EG of larger molecular sizes. EG concentrations in the leaf increased to a peak concentration and then slowly decreased. GC-MS analysis of DEG-treated plant tissue found MEG, 1,4-dioxan-2-one, neophytadiene, and 2-propenamide, that may be DEG-degradation products and/or compounds that are induced when plants are exposed to DEG. The result indicates that burhead can potentially be used for EG removal.

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