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Water hyacinths as pollution monitors.

Water hyacinths as pollution meters

Measuring the pollution levels of heavy metals in rivers can often be tricky, but hydrologists may have found a potential tool in the form of water hyacinths, report Barbara C. Scudder and Harry V. Leland from the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif. In a study of a hyacinth species growing in California's San Joaquin River, they found that many elements such as selenium, manganese and chromium concentrate in the root tips. In some cases the levels in the roots reach 2,000 times the concentrations dissolved in the water.

Scudder says these plants, often considered weeds, can stand high levels of toxic metals. She proposes that hyacinths might be particularly useful in detecting substances whose concentrations fall below the limits of traditional methods.
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Author:Monastersky, Richard
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 24, 1988
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