Heavy metals and radioactivity: Hemp plants detoxify contaminated soils

Mercury and cyanide, heavy metal arsenic, plus radioactive uranium: a few kilometers from Johannesburg is a poisoned world. Lakes are colored purple there, and orange overburden lines their banks. Desolate steel skeletons protrude from the landscape, where people have mined gold for 130 years. Huge riches have arisen here, now the land is drained and dead. Hemp plants are supposed to bring the soil back to life and detoxify the region.

Hemp also thrives on radioactive soils

A student saves the poisoned landscape

The Robinson Lake near the town of Randfontstein is not ideal for local recreation. Measurements showed an up to 40,000-fold increase in radioactivity of the water. All that gold had its price – and nature paid for it. The mining companies were supposed to revive the depleted landscape after mining the coveted metal, but nothing came of it. Some of them went broke, others just didn’t care about their duty. Tiago Campbell is studying environmental sciences at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesberg. He says: “Hardly anyone is aware of the true extent of environmental pollution.” .

For this purpose, the young man chose the hemp plant »Cannabis sativa«, which also serves as a source of mariuhana. In English it has the nickname »mop crop« because it has strong cleaning powers. Their roots dig up to 2.5 meters deep into the ground and absorb toxic substances. The plant spreads like weeds if left and overgrows the poisoned soil of the old godmines. Campbell has already released it in the poisonous desert and was delighted to watch it grow.

Hemp is already growing in Chernobyl for detoxification

In Chernobyl and the Italian steel town of Puglia, hemp has already been able to prove itself, where the “rag” absorbed a lot of dioxin and radioactive substances. There is a good chance that Cannabis sativa will take on the toxic enemy at Johannesberg. However, no further processing of the hemp should take place afterwards. Rather, the question arises: Where can the plants be disposed of safely afterwards?


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