Poplar trees can help fight pollutants
Poplars seem to be able to absorb, transform and accumulate pharmaceutical pollutants such as Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory active ingredient often found in urban waste water. This is demonstrated by a study carried out by Sant’Anna School Institute of Life Sciences, in collaboration with Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich.
The poplar trees modified to absorb the drugs belong to the variety Populus alba Villafranca clone, already known for its ability to accumulate heavy metals and organic xenobiotic substances present in soil and water.
The study, published in Science of The Total Environment, was conducted by a research team led by Luca Sebastiani, Director of the Institute of Life Sciences, who has been investigating for some time the mechanism by which tree species of agricultural interest eliminate organic pollutants of pharmaceutical origin from water and soil.
“Understanding how plants respond to xenobiotic organic pollutants”, explained Luca Sebastiani, “can help us fight pollution in a natural way. At the same time, it allows us to check whether these products damage crops and, in the case of edible species, whether they accumulate in the organs that we eat”.
“The next step could be field testing, but this will depend on the funding available”, concluded Sebastiani. The best places to plant these poplars could be the biological purification areas at the exit of traditional purifiers.
The study also involved Erika Carla Pierattini, Alessandra Francini, in collaboration with Christian Huber and Peter Schröder from Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich.