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Does exposure to weathered coal ash with an enhanced content of uranium-series radionuclides affect flora? Changes in the physiological indicators of five referent plant species

Božena Skoko, Sandra Radić Brkanac, Željka Kuharić, Mirela Jukić, Marko Štrok, Leja Rovan, Željka Zgorelec, Aleksandra Perčin, Ivica Prlić
Journal of hazardous materials 2023 v.441 pp. 129880
Pinus, ash (inorganic matter), blackberries, catalase, chronic exposure, flora, glutathione transferase, grasses, lipid peroxidation, photosynthesis, toxicity
Coal ash deposited in open landfills is a potential source of environmental pollutants due to the contained toxic element content. The weathered coal ash used in this study additionally contains enhanced activity concentrations of ²³⁸U series radionuclides. This study aimed to determine the physiological effects of enhanced ionizing radiation and toxic elements on five plant species (smilo grass, sticky fleabane, blackberry, mastic and pine tree) inhabiting the coal ash disposal site. Among the potentially toxic measured elements, contents of Sb, As and especially V significantly exceeded their respective levels at the control site, as well as the content of ²³⁸U and its progenies. Significant changes in photosynthetic pigments were recorded following chronic exposure to the plants growing on the coal ash site. Different responses were also observed in the plant species regarding the activity of catalase and glutathione-S-transferase (GST). The level of lipid peroxidation markedly increased in plants from the disposal site, except in blackberry, wherein GST activity was the strongest, indicating an important role of that enzyme in the adaptation to coal ash pollutants. The results of this study suggest that the modulation of the studied biochemical parameters in plants growing on coal ash is primarily species-dependent.