Removal of heavy metals from water sources in the developing world using low-cost materials: A review

Chemosphere. 2019 Aug:229:142-159. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.04.198. Epub 2019 May 3.


Heavy metal contamination is a growing concern in the developing world. Inadequate water and wastewater treatment, coupled with increased industrial activity, have led to increased heavy metal contamination in rivers, lakes, and other water sources in developing countries. However, common methods for removing heavy metals from water sources, including membrane filtration, activated carbon adsorption, and electrocoagulation, are not feasible for developing countries. As a result, a significant amount of research has been conducted on low-cost adsorbents to evaluate their ability to remove heavy metals. In this review article, we summarize the current state of research on the removal of heavy metals with an emphasis on low-cost adsorbents that are feasible in the context of the developing world. This review evaluates the use of adsorbents from four major categories: agricultural waste; naturally-occurring soil and mineral deposits; aquatic and terrestrial biomass; and other locally-available waste materials. Along with a summary of the use of these adsorbents in the removal of heavy metals, this article provides a summary of the influence of various water-quality parameters on heavy metals and these adsorbents. The proposed adsorption mechanisms for heavy metal removal are also discussed.

Keywords: Adsorption; Developing countries; Heavy metals; Water treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry
  • Metals, Heavy / isolation & purification*
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / isolation & purification*
  • Water Purification / economics*


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water