A preliminary investigation into the degradation of asbestos fibres in soils, rocks and building materials associated with naturally occurring biofilms

Berry T.-A., Wallis S., Doyle E., de Lange P., Steinhorn G., Vigliaturo R., Belluso E. & Blanchon D.
14(1): 106 [15 p.]
Bioremediation utilizes living organisms such as plants, microbes and their enzymatic products to reduce toxicity in xenobiotic compounds. Microbial-mediated bioremediation is cost effective and sustainable and in situ application is easily implemented. Either naturally occurring metabolic activity can be utilized during bioremediation for the degradation, transformation or accumulation of substances, or microbial augmentation with non-native species can be exploited. Despite the perceived low potential for the biological degradation of some recalcitrant compounds, successful steps towards bioremediation have been made, including with asbestos minerals, which are prevalent in building stock (created prior to the year 2000) in New Zealand. Evidence of the in situ biodegradation of asbestos fibres was investigated in samples taken from a retired asbestos mine, asbestos-contaminated soils and biofilm or lichen-covered asbestos-containing building materials. Microbial diversity within the biofilms to be associated with the asbestos-containing samples was investigated using internal transcribed spacer and 16S DNA amplicon sequencing, supplemented with isolation and culturing on agar plates. A range of fungal and bacterial species were found, including some known to produce siderophores. Changes to fibre structure and morphology were analysed using Transmission Electron Microscopy and Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy. Chrysotile fibrils from asbestos-containing material (ACMs), asbestos-containing soils, and asbestos incorporated into lichen material showed signs of amorphisation and dissolution across their length, which could be related to biological activity. Keywords: asbestos; bioremediation; chrysotile; fungi; bacteria; Transmission Electron Microscopy; Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy.
Friday, 19 January 2024 10:21