They may taste great on a pizza, but could onions and garlic be used to help clean up hazardous heavy metals? Research conducted at GGS Indraprastha University in Delhi, India, suggests this is indeed the case.

Biotechnologists Rahul Negi, Gouri Satpathy, Yogesh Tyagi and Rajinder Gupta posit that the waste from the processing and canning of onions (or Allium cepa L.), and garlic (Allium sativum L.), could be used as an alternative remediation for removing toxic heavy metal elements – including arsenic, cadmium, iron, mercury, tin, and lead – from contaminated materials such as industrial effluent.

Following extensive temperature and pH testing of the Allium, the team arrived at a test solution, which was then tasked with the removal of heavy metals from both simulated and real industrial effluents. This solution was able to extract more than 10 mg of lead pollution per gram of Allium material, amounting to a recovery efficiency which exceeds 70 percent.

"The technique appears to be industrially applicable and viable," said an unnamed member of the team. "This may provide an affordable, environmental friendly and low maintenance technology for small and medium scale industries in developing countries."

The research was detailed in a paper recently published in the journal International Journal of Environment and Pollution.