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African Journal of Biotechnology

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Fractionation, characterization and speciation of heavy metals in composts and compost-amended soils

CMA Iwegbue, FN Emuh, NO Isirimah, AC Egun

Abstract


Speciation of heavy metals in soils determines the availability for metals for plant uptake and potential for contamination of groundwater following application of composts to agricultural lands. Methods
used to characterize heavy metals in solid phase of composts and compost amended soils include physical fractionation and chemical extraction. Chemical extraction schemes are most frequently used
approach to fractionate trace metals in soils, sewage sludge and composts. Several variations exist in the sequential extraction procedures. These variations include reagent types, strength, volume and extraction time. A main drawback shared by all sequential extraction schemes is that the procedures themselves are complex and time consuming. This setback has been overcome by the use of
ultrasound accelerated extraction which reduce the extraction time for the entire extraction steps to about 90 minutes allowing composting process to be monitored more frequently which help to provide
detailed understanding of the partitioning behaviour of heavy metals. Inspite of the variability the sequential extraction schemes, they all aimed at correlating each fraction with the mobility and plant
availability of each metal. Several studies have shown that phase association of heavy metal in composts include water-soluble, exchangeable, precipitated as discrete phases, co-precipitate in metal
oxides and adsorbed or complexed by organic ligands and residual forms. The phase association and solubility of metals changes over composting time thereby altering metal availability. It is apparent that
the positive effects of resulting from compost application far outweigh the negative effect, but more research is needed on a wide range of municipal solid waste compost with more precise determination
of the fate of municipal solid waste compost applied trace metals in the environment.



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