Mercury toxicity: The importance of microbial diversity for improved environmental remediation
Mercury is one of the naturally occurring elements found in the environment. This heavy metal occurs naturally in minute amounts and is the sixteenth rarest element on earth. It is ranked third among the most toxic biosphere occurring elements and when present in high concentration in a given soil, sediment and/or air compartments of the environment, it leaches and deposits in water bodies, eventually ending up in the food chain (Sinha and Khare, 2012), thereby causing a great health risks. Mercury pollution is a serious global environmental problem attracting the attention of many stakeholders around the world (Mason et al. 2012). Traditionally, chemical and physical methods were employed in the reduction or removal of mercury from contaminated aqueous and soil environments, however, owing to their labor intensiveness, high operational cost and low efficiency among other limitations, these remediation measures are adjudged unsatisfactory and hence the search for alternative means of clean-up of mercury contaminated environments becomes imperative (Wuana et al., 2011). Accordingly, natural remediation processes and technologies are being explored, among which bioremediation proved promising. Although a wide range of groups of organisms are used to degrade mercury, many challenges still persist, and much of the successes recorded are limited to laboratory scales (Xu et al., 2015). It will therefore be 249of interest to demonstrate the efficiency of these technologies at a much larger scale and optimize performance where necessary. This chapter overview the diversity of microorganisms, and prospects in the improvement of mercury contaminated environment remediation process. 2017 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
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