The following article was published in NATS Current News, April-May
2000, Vol. 18, No. 2.
FUNGUS DOES THE DIRTY WORK
Pacific Northwest National lab, Winter 1999-2000 via Spore Prints,
bulletin of the Puget Sound Mycol. Soc. March 2000.
Despite negative images often associated with fungus, scientists at
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have found that it can be an
effective tool for environmental cleanup.
Researchers at Pacific Northwest's Marine Sciences Laboratory have
developed a way to condition fungus to clean up soil contaminated with
petroleum hydrocarbon and other toxic or hazardous waste. The completely
natural method, called mycoremediation or fungal remediation, is
expected to be faster and more cost-effective than other bioremediation
Although most fungal remediation research has focused on one
species, Pacific Northwest researchers have tested more than 50 fungal
species for vairous applications. the process begins by collecting
higher fungi from the contaminated area or a comparable site. Including
careful selection, culture and testing, the several steps that follow
result in proprietary fungal strains that are predisposed to break down
and destroy specific contaminants.
It is the mycelium network of microscopic threads, or strings of
cells that make up the fungus, that does the actual work. Acting as a
filter, the mycelium selectively extracts materials from soil and water
and then breaks down the conaminants using enzymes that it releases into
In a four-month pilot-scale study in 1998, scientists treated soils
at the Washington State Department of Tranportation maintenance yard in
Bellingham using mycoremediation. Three types of soils were collected
from the earthen floor of a vehicle maintenance building, an area
contaminated with diesel and an area contaminated with gasoline.
After four to five weeks, fruiting was observed, which means that
large mushrooms began to appear at the surface of the soil. At the same
time, the mycelium had penetrated through all three of the four-foot
mounds of soil and the smell of oil had disappeared. After four months
all of the soil was clean enough to use in landscaping.
A patent is pending on the method used to culture, select, and
condition natural fungus species to be more efficient at breaking down
certain contaminants. Pacific Northwest is continuing to test further
applications of mycoremediation and is pursuing opportunities to
commercialize the process.
COMMENT BY POSTER: Bioremediation is an area ripe for fungal developing.
A number of fungi are known to break down persistent toxins in soils,
including PCP, DDT, dioxin, and PBP. Some of these fungi are common,
some are atypical over much of the United States. They include
Stropharia rugosa-annulata which can remove coliform bacteria from
water; Phanaerochaete chrysosprorium that eats dioxin with 3 days; and
even Pleurotus ostreatus, which is a widely diverse biodegredation
Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
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