The influence of organic ligands on the retention of lead in soil

A. P. Schwab, Yinghong He, M. K. Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Organic acids are commonly produced and exuded by plant roots and soil microorganisms. Some of these organic compounds are effective chelating agents and have the potential to enhance metal mobility. The effect of citrate and salicylate on the leaching of lead in soil was investigated in a laboratory experiment. In short-term batch experiments, adsorption of lead to soil was slightly enhanced with increasing salicylate concentration (500-5000 μM) but decreased significantly in the presence of citrate. These observations suggested that citrate may enhance Pb leaching, but this was not observed in the column study. Soluble Pb in the presence and absence citrate or salicylate (up to 5000 μM) was added to soil columns at a moderate flow rate, but no Pb was observed to emerge from the soil in any of the soil columns. Rapid biodegradation of citrate in soil eliminated potential complexing ability. Breakthrough of Pb from soil was noted only when using small columns at high flow rates (>20 pore volumes per day). Under these conditions of physical and chemical non-equilibrium, citrate was not degraded and significantly enhanced Pb mobility. As in the batch adsorption experiments, the presence of salicylate reduced Pb leaching. Considering the extreme conditions required to induce Pb leaching, it is likely that Pb will remain relatively immobile in soil even in the presence of a strong complexing agent such as citrate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)856-866
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Adsorption
  • Citrate
  • Heavy metals
  • Leachate
  • Lead
  • Organic acids
  • Redox
  • Rhizosphere
  • Salicylate
  • Soil
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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