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Sci Total Environ. 2018 Aug 15;633:71-80. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.03.167. Epub 2018 Mar 21.

Alleviation of heavy metal phytotoxicity in sewage sludge by vermicomposting with additive urban plant litter.

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College of Forestry & Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou 510642, China.
School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510006, China.
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2061, USA.
Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus), Kelowna, British Columbia V1V1V7, Canada.
College of Forestry & Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou 510642, China. Electronic address:


The handling of sewage sludge (SS) and urban plant litter (UPL) has become an important concern. Immobilizing heavy metals (HMs) is regarded as a necessary process for recycling SS in agriculture and forestry. Here, HM removal and HM phytotoxicity in SS during vermicomposting with different additive UPLs was investigated. The results show that vermicomposting with additive UPL significantly reduced the content of HMs, and increased organic carbon content and the proportion of macroaggregates in SS. This process also significantly immobilized HMs by mainly transforming extractable and reducible HMs into residual products. The litters of Dracontomelon duperreanum and Bauhinia purpurea increased oxidizable HMs in SS and the accumulation capacity of HMs of earthworms during vermicomposting. The Cd content in vermicomposts with the B. purpurea litter addition was decreased by 31% relative to the initial SS. Maize in vermicomposts with UPL additions, especially with B. purpurea litter, exhibited significan5tly higher seed germination rates, seedling biomass, root activity, and a lower accumulation of HMs than in SS compost without UPL additions. These results suggest that vermicomposting with additive UPL can alleviate the phytotoxicity of HMs in SS and provides a new method for simultaneously recycling SS and UPL.


Bio-immobilization; Earthworm; Heavy metal; Sewage sludge; Urban plant litter

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