Toxic heavy metals: impact on the environment and human health, and treatment with conducting organic polymers, a review

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2020 Aug;27(24):29927-29942. doi: 10.1007/s11356-020-09354-3. Epub 2020 Jun 6.


Water pollution by heavy metals has many human origins, such as the burning of fossil fuels, exhaust gases of vehicles, mining, agriculture, and incineration of solid and liquid wastes. Heavy metals also occur naturally, due to volcanoes, thermal springs activity, erosion, infiltration, etc. This water contamination is a threat for living beings because most heavy metals are toxic to humans and to aquatic life. Hence, it is important to find effective techniques for removing these contaminants in order to reduce the level of pollution of the natural waters. In this work, we have reviewed the toxicity of several heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel), their impact on the environment and human health, and the synthesis and characterization methods of conducting organic polymers (COPs) utilized for the removal of heavy metals from the environment. Therefore, this review was essentially aimed to present recent works and methods (2000-2020) on the environmental impact and toxicity of heavy metals and on the removal of toxic heavy metals, using chemically and/or electrochemically synthesized COPs. We have also stressed the great interest of COPs for the removal of toxic heavy metals from waters.

Keywords: Conductive organic polymers; Environmental impact; Heavy metals; Removal of heavy metals; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cadmium / analysis
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Heavy Metal Poisoning
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Polymers*


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Polymers
  • Cadmium