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Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2009, Article ID 790687, 8 pages
Review Article

Use of Hydrophilic Insoluble Polymers in the Restoration of Metal-Contaminated Soils

1Technical University of Lisbon, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal
2Soil and Environmental College, Shenyang Agricultural University, 110161 Shenyang, China

Received 22 April 2009; Revised 24 June 2009; Accepted 19 September 2009

Academic Editor: Liliana Gianfreda

Copyright © 2009 Guiwei Qu and Amarilis de Varennes. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


To develop cost-effective techniques that contribute to phytostabilization of severely metal-contaminated soils is a necessary task in environmental research. Hydrophilic insoluble polymers have been used for some time in diapers and other hygienic products and to increase the water-holding capacity of coarse-textured soils. These polymers contain groups, such as carboxyl groups, that are capable of forming bonds with metallic cations, thereby decreasing their bioavailability in soils. The use of polyacrylate polymers as soil amendments to restore metal-contaminated soils has been investigated in the Technical University of Lisbon since the late nineties. Plant growth and plant nutrients concentrations, extractable levels of metals in soil, and soil enzyme activities were used to monitor the improvement in soil quality following the application of these polymers. In contaminated soils, hydrophilic insoluble polymers can create microcosms that are rich in water and nutrients (counterions) but only contain small concentrations of toxic elements; the conditions of these microenvironments are favorable to roots and microorganisms. In this paper we described the most relevant information available about this topic.