Hemp is one of the best plants for use in phytoremediation (healing the soil with plants).
1986 saw the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. The contamination not only affected the people in the area, but also contaminated the soil. In 1998 industrial hemp was planted to remove the contaminants from the soil.
“Hemp is proving to be one of the best phyto-remediative plants we have been able to find,” said Slavik Dushenkov, a research scientist with PHYTOTECH.
Hemp would also be an excellent plant choice for healing the soil in Japan, after the nuclear disaster triggered from the earthquake last year. However, hemp farming in Japan has decreased:
“However, the cannabis control law was enacted under GHQ under the United States occupation after World War II in 1948. As a result, an annual license from the prefecture governor was needed to grow hemp . It felt that the farmer was the same as making of the cultivation of hemp the narcotic drug because of the licensing system degree. After that, hemp products of the plant origin disappeared one after another by the spread of the life use goods of the oil origin in postwar days. And the number of farmers who grow hemp has decreased gradually.” (Japanhemp.org)
Phytoremediation is the treatment of environmental problems through the use of plants. These plants, called hyperaccumulators, degrade contaminants (radiation, harmful metals, oil, solvents, chemicals, pesticides, sewage, hydrocarbons, etc.) in soil, water, and air.
During phytoremediation the roots of the hemp take in the contaminants. Other plants can be used for phytoremediation, but hemp is ideal because of its deep root system (3 feet or more). “Advantages: The main advantage of phytoextraction is environmental friendliness. Traditional methods that are used for cleaning up heavy metal-contaminated soil disrupt soil structure and reduce soil productivity, whereas phytoextraction can clean up the soil without causing any kind of harm to soil quality. Another benefit of phytoextraction is that it is less expensive than any other clean-up process.” (Wikipedia)
The toxic pollution is drawn up into the roots of the plant and into the stalk and leaves. After harvest there may be some remaining contamination, so several crops are often needed to bring the soil back to its healthy levels.
There is currently a Colorado House bill that is being worked on – the study will look at hemp’s effectiveness at cleaning the environment (although, that was proven at Chernobyl).
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 30,000 sites in the U.S. alone (including Hanford and Three Mile Island) require hazardous waste treatment. Restoring these areas and their soil, as well as disposing of the wastes, are costly projects, but the costs are expected to be reduced drastically if plants provide the phytoremediation results everyone is hoping for.” (www.mhhe.com)
Would hemp as an environmental ‘detergent’ be practical? In my opinion, a resounding YES!