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Heavy Metals: Impact on Human

Swati M1* and Barkha G2

1University Institute of Biotechnology, Chandigarh University, Mohali, Punjab, India

2Amity Institute of Biotechnology, Amity University, Noida, Delhi, India

*Corresponding Author:
Swati M
University Institute of Biotechnology
Chandigarh University, Mohali
Punjab, India
Email: [email protected]

Received date: 12/09/2016; Accepted date: 13/09/2016; Published date: 14/09/2016

Visit for more related articles at Research & Reviews: Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicological Studies


Worldwide modernization is in charge of industrialization, urbanization and a few other anthropogenic exercises, which includes the immense use of heavy metals. Heavy metals containing items amid procedure and after transfer, discharge different heavy metals and particles in encompassing environment which extremely influence the soil and water quality. Heavy metals cause numerous biological and well-being related issues. Numerous conventional strategies were at that point being utilized to purify nature from unfavorable impact of these pollutants yet the vast majority of the techniques utilized are extremely costly and far from their most ideal execution. The capacity of microorganisms to tie metal particles is a surely understood pattern. This review is prone to assistance to better comprehend the over risks of heavy metals and its organic detoxification procedures. It concentrates on the biosorption of various metals by various means which lead to the ecosystem well-disposed tidy up of nature without bringing on any harm all things considered to the surroundings/without the arrival of chemicals into the environment.


Heavy metal; Biosorption; Health; Disease; Microbes


Heavy metal contamination has gotten to be one of the major natural issues that stance genuine well-being peril. Diverse sort enterprises use distinctive kind of heavy metals and straightforwardly or in a roundabout way release wastewater containing poisonous substances into the earth [1,2]. The heavy metals that are required by living life form include copper, iron, and zinc yet however, extreme levels of these metals can be dangerous to the life form because of their lethality and gathering conduct. Distinctive strategies have being utilized to disinfect nature from antagonistic impact of these toxins however, yet the majority of the techniques utilized are not financially savvy and far from their most ideal execution. Thusly, the need to supplant with biological methods which are modest and productive strategy for regarding metal-bearing effluents as these techniques may give a conceivable way out to metal expulsion from sullied environment [3-7]. Biosorption of heavy metals by microbial cells has been perceived as a potential other option to existing advancements for recuperation of heavy metals from modern waste. Microbial populations in metal dirtied situations contain microorganisms which have been adjusted to harmful convergences of heavy metals and get to be metal safe. Such microorganisms have created various systems for survival within the sight of heavy metals, and procured hereditary properties that balance the impacts of high metal ion concentrations. The utilization of heavy metal safe microorganisms for the purification of heavy metals from tainted water and soil has pulled in developing consideration due to a few issues associated with pollutant removal using conventional methods [8-11].

Heavy Metals Sources

Heavy metals are characterized as metals and metalloids having densities more prominent than >5 g cm-3. Heavy metals might be found in soils actually or can be added to soils through anthropogenic exercises [12]. Characteristic wellsprings of heavy metals (heavy metals, for example, volcanoes emanations transport of mainland tidies, and weathering of metal) enriched rocks because of long presentation to air, significantly adds higher measures of heavy metals to soils [13]. The world anthropogenic emanations are bigger than or comparable to normal outflows for the majority of trace metals, the metals particles originating from anthropogenic sources might be amassed in amphibian life forms and exchange to people through the food chain [14]. Therefore, health risks may occur because water organism contaminated by heavy metals can bring about numerous, well-being related problems [15].

Heavy Metal Effect on Human Wellbeing: A Compact Perspective

Heavy metals are profoundly poisonous and can bring about harming impacts even at low concentrations. They are metallic components which have a high nuclear weight and thickness much more prominent than water [16]. Body needs friendly trace element heavy metals; however, there are another 12 harmful heavy metals like Pb, Hg, As, Cd etc. They act as inhibitor to the enzymatic digestion system of the body. Heavy metal over-burden is unfavorable to the characteristic recuperating elements of the body framework [17]. Heavy metals for the most part enter the human body by means of various evolved ways of life, food chains, inhalation and ingestion. Moreover, heavy metals have been utilized for long time by people for making metal combinations and shades for paints, concrete, paper, elastic, and different materials [18]. The poisonous quality of heavy metals can likewise disturb or harm the mental and central nervous systems, change blood composition, harm lungs, kidneys, livers, and other imperative organs. The long haul exposures of human populace to heavy metals have additionally indicated physical, strong, and neurological disabilities [19]. The degenerative processes are like Alzheimer's sickness, Parkinson's illness, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. Another illness, for example, obstructive lung infection has been connected to lung growth, and harm to human's respiratory frameworks has likewise been found to develop following high rate exposure to metals. Aside from the lethal impacts, certain metals like Cu, Se and Zn are accounted for to play some critical and valuable parts in human digestion system. For instance, Cu at lower concentrations goes about as co-elements for different proteins of redox cycling nonetheless, at higher fixation upsets the human digestion system prompting sickliness, liver and kidney harm, stomach and intestinal disturbance [20-22].

Conventional Methods for Heavy Metal Evacuation

The regularly utilized strategies for expelling metal particles from watery streams incorporate concoction precipitation, lime coagulation, ion exchange, reverse osmosis and solvent extraction. The procedure depiction of every strategy is displayed underneath

Reverse Osmosis

It is a procedure in which heavy metals are isolated by a semi-permeable membrane at a pressure more noteworthy than osmotic pressure brought on by the dissolved solids in wastewater. The impediment of this technique is that it is costly.

Electro Dialysis

In this procedure, the ionic parts (heavy metals) are isolated using semi-porous particle specific layers. Use of an electrical potential between the two electrodes causes a movement of cations and anions towards particular electrodes. As a result of the alternate spacing of cation and anion porous layers, cells of concentrated and weaken salts are framed. The hindrance is the arrangement of metal hydroxides, which clog the film.

Ultra Filtration

They are pressure driven membrane operations that use permeable films for the evacuation of heavy metals. The primary impediment of this procedure is the sludge generation.

Ion Exchange

In this procedure, metal particles from diluted solutions are traded with particles held by electrostatic strengths on the exchange resins. The inconveniences include: high cost and incomplete expulsion of specific particles.

Chemical Precipitation

Precipitation of metals is accomplished by the addition of coagulants, for example, alum, lime, iron salts and other natural polymers. The huge measure of sludge containing dangerous substances generated during the procedure is the principle drawback.


Phytoremediation is the utilization of specific plants to tidy up soil, silt, and water sullied with metals. The impediments incorporate that it requires a long investment for evacuation of metals and the recovery of the plant for further biosorption is troublesome.


• Deficient metal expulsion.

• High reagent and vitality necessities.

• Production of toxic sludge or other waste items that require careful removal.

• These made it imperative for a savvy treatment technique that is fit for expelling heavy metals from watery effluents [23-27].

Eco-Accommodating Heavy Metal Removal

Biosorption is a procedure which speaks to a biotechnological advancement and in addition a savvy brilliant apparatus for expelling heavy metals from watery arrangements. It speaks to a run of the mill strategy for utilizing temperate exchange natural materials for the reason. Today, biosorption is one of the primary segments of ecological and bioresource innovation. Use of microorganisms (particularly microbes, algae, yeasts and fungi) as biosorbents for heavy metal expulsion have gotten developing enthusiasm because of high surface to volume proportion; vast accessibility, quick energy of adsorption and desorption and minimal effort [27,28].

Biosorption by Microbes

Biosorption can be characterized as the evacuation of metal or metalloid species, compounds and particulates from a solution by cheap natural materials. Every single natural material can be helpful biosorbents for metals sequestration except for portable salt metal cations like sodium and potassium particles, and this can be a useful passive procedure in living and dead beings. A few inexpensive biosorbents for the expulsion of metals for the most part come under the accompanying classifications: microorganisms, fungi, algae, plants, industrial waste, agrarian waste and other polysaccharide materials.

Bacteria as Heavy Metals Biosorbent

Bacterial biosorption is fundamentally utilized for the expulsion of pollutants from effluents tainted with pollutants that are not biodegradable, similar to metals particles and colors. In any case, their isolation, screening and harvesting on a bigger scale might be confounded yet at the same time remain one of the productive method for remediating contaminations. Distinctive bacterial strains were utilized for the evacuation of various metal particles. Table 1 underneath demonstrates the biosorption limit of various metal particles by various bacterial biomass. Microorganisms have advanced various productive frameworks for detoxifying metals particles they build up these resistance instruments for the most part for their survival.

Metals Bacterial sp. Biosorption Capacity (mg/g-1)
Copper Cu(ii) Enterobacter sp. 32.5
Arthrobacter sp. 17.87
Zinc (Zn) Pseudomonas putida 17.7
Bacillus jeotgali 222.2
Chromium Cr(vi) Pseudomonas fluorescence 40.8
Pseudomonas sp. 95

Table 1: Bacterial species used for the removal of different heavy metals [1]

Algae as Heavy Metals Biosorbents

Algae are effective and modest biosorbents as the prerequisite of supplement by algae is little. On the basis of statistical analysis on algae probability in biosorption, it has been accounted that algae retain around 15.3%-84.6% which is higher when contrasted with other microbial biosorbents. In all the types of algae, brown algae were known not high retention limit. Biosorption of metal particles happens on the cell surface by method for particle ion exchange. Brown marine algae has the ability to assimilated metals like Cd, Ni, Pb through substance bunches on their surface, for example, carboxyl, sulfonate, amino, and sulfhydryl Table 2.

Heavy Metals Algal sp. Biosorption Capacity (mg/g)
Lead Spirogyra sp. 140
Zinc Sargassummuticum 34.1
Cadmium Ulvalactuca sp. 43.02
Lead 181.82
Cadmium Sargassum sp. 84.7
Chromium Chlorella miniata 34.6
Cupper Spirulinaplatensis 67.93

Table 2: Different species algae and their biosorption capacity [1]

Fungi as Heavy Metals Biosorbent

The utilization of fungi as bio sorbents material has been appeared to be proficient material is likewise one of the practical and eco-accommodating strategies which serve as a contrasting option to artificially bound treatment process. The capacity of the numerous kinds of fungi to create extracellular proteins for the osmosis of complex carbohydrates for previous hydrolysis makes capable the degradation of different degrees of pollutants. They additionally have the advantage of being moderately uncomplicated to develop in fermenters, in this manner being proper for extensive scale generation. Another advantage is the simple separation of contagious biomass by filtration as a result of its filamentous structure. In contrast with yeasts, filamentous fungi are less delicate to variations in supplements, aeration, pH, temperature and have a lower nucleic content in the biomass (Table 3) [29-31].

Fungal sp. Heavy Metal Biosorption Capacity (mg/g)
Aspergillusniger Pb 34.4
Cu 28.7
Saccharomyces cerevisiae Pb 270
Hg 64.2
Penicilliumpurpurogenum Cr(Vi) 36.5
Penicilliumsimpliccium Cd 52.5
Zn 65.6
Penicilliumchrysogenum Ni 260
Pb 204
Cu 92

Table 3: Fungal species used and their biosorption capacity [1]

Mechanism of Removal of Pollutants by Biosorbents

There are numerous types of biosorbents got from different types of crude biomass, including microorganisms, organisms, yeasts, and algae. The complex structure of crude biomass infers that there are numerous courses, by which these biosorbents evacuate different poisons; however these are not yet fully caught on. For instance, the structure and useful parts of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) of microorganisms are connected with their roles in metal biosorption. Accordingly, there are numerous compound/practical gatherings that can draw in and sequester contaminations, contingent upon the types of biosorbent. These can comprise of amide, amine, carbonyl, carboxyl, hydroxyl, imine, imidazole, sulfonate, sulfhydryl, thioether, phenolic, phosphate, and phosphodiester groups. Nonetheless, the nearness of some useful gatherings does not ensure effective biosorption of contaminations, as steric, conformational, or different hindrances may likewise be available. The significance of any given groups for biosorption of a specific pollutants by a specific biomass relies on upon different variables, including the quantity of receptive positions in the biosorbent, accessibility of the sites, their chemical sites, and affinity between the sites and the specific pollutants of interest (i.e., binding capability) biosorption of metals or dyes occurs fundamentally through interactions, for example, ion exchange, complexation, adsorption by physical powers, precipitation and ensnarement in internal spaces [32-36].

Factors Influencing Biosorption

The examination of the adequacy of the metal uptake by the microbial biomass is fundamental for the modern utilization of biosorption, as it gives data about the harmony of the procedure which is vital for the design of the equipment. The following variables influence the biosorption procedure:

• Temperature does not have any impact on the biosorption in the scope of 20-35°C.

• pH is by all accounts the most vital parameter in the biosorptive procedure: it influences the arrangement science of the metals, the movement of the utilitarian gatherings in the biomass and the opposition of metallic particles.

• Biomass focus in arrangement appears to impact the particular uptake: for lower estimations of biomass fixations there is an expansion in the particular uptake.

• Biosorption is for the most part used to treat wastewater where more than one kind of metal particles would be available; the expulsion of one metal particle might be affected by the nearness of other metal ions.

According to the area where the metal expelled from arrangement is discovered, biosorption can be named:

• Extra cell accumulation/precipitation.

• Cell surface sorption/precipitation.

• Intracellular accumulation [37-40].

The Exigency of Heavy Metals Removal

Consistent release of mechanical, local and horticultural waste in streams and lakes causes deposition in residue. Such poisons incorporate heavy metals, which jeopardize general well-being in the wake of being consolidated in food chain [41]. Heavy metals can't be obliterated through natural debasement, just like the case with most natural pollutants. Occurrence of heavy metal amassing in fish, clams, mussels, dregs and different segments of oceanic biological systems have been accounted for from everywhere throughout the world. Extreme measures of some heavy metals can be dangerous through direct activity of the metal or through their inorganic salts or by means of organic compounds from which the metal can turn out to be effortlessly confined or brought into the cell. Exposure to various metals may happen in like manner circumstances, especially in mechanical setting [42]. Accidents in a few situations can bring about intense, abnormal state introduction. A portion of the heavy metals are dangerous to aquatic life even at low focus [43]. The issue of heavy metal contamination in water and amphibian life forms including fish, needs regular checking and reconnaissance as these components don't corrupt and tend to bio magnify in man through food chain. Innovative work, along these lines concentrates on area particular strategies and advancements to expel dyes and heavy metals from various types of waste streams [44]. In perspective of the above toxicological impacts of heavy metals on environment, creatures and people, it gets to be basic to treat these toxic compounds in wastewater effluents before they are released into freshwater bodies [45].


Biosorption is in its formative stages and further change in both execution and expenses can be normal in future. Biosorption is being a contrasting option to traditional techniques for the expulsion of harmful heavy metals from mechanical effluents. These Conventional strategies are costly; consequently the utilization of minimal effort, rich ecologically well-disposed biosorbents must be utilized. The propelled advancement of the biosorption forms requires further change toward demonstrating, recovery of biosorbent material and of testing immobilized crude biomasses with essential mechanical effluents.