Removal of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) by wetlands: Prospects on plants, microbes and the interplay

By Muhammad Arslan and Mohamed Gamal El-Din
Sci Total Environ
August 25, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.149570

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) represent a large family of synthetic organofluorine aliphatic compounds. They have been extensively produced since 1940s due to enormous applications as a surface-active agent, and water and oil repellent characteristics. PFASs are made to be non-biodegradable, therefore, many of them have been found in the environment albeit strict regulations have been in place since 2002. PFASs are extremely toxic compounds that can impart harm in both fauna and flora. Recent investigations have shown that wetlands might be useful for their removal from the environment as a passive and nature-based solution. To this end, understanding the role of plants, microbes, and their combined plant-microbe interplay is crucial because it could help design a sophisticated passive treatment wetland system. This review focuses on how these components (plants, microbe, substrate) can influence PFASs removal in wetlands under natural and controlled conditions. The information on underlying removal mechanisms is mostly retrieved from laboratory-based studies; however, pilot- and field-scale data are also presented to provide insights on their real-time performance. Briefly, a traditional wetland system works on the principles of phytouptake, bioaccumulation, and sorption, which are mainly due to the fact that PFASs are synthetic compounds that have very low reactivity in the environment. Nevertheless, recent investigations have also shown that Feammox process in wetlands can mineralize the PFASs; thus, opens new opportunities for PFASs degradation in terms of effective plant-microbe interplay in the wetlands. The choice of plants and bacterial species is however crucial, and the system efficiency relies on species-specific, sediment-specific and pollutant-specific principles. More research is encouraged to identify genetic elements and molecular mechanisms that can help us harness effective plant-microbe interplay in wetlands for the successful removal of PFASs from the environment.

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