Hemp is Being Used to Decontaminate Europe's Largest Steel Plant Site
Hemp is one of the most versatile plants on earth. I once heard a statistic that hemp can be used to make up to 25,000 different things. I didn't personally see the list, so I don't know the accuracy of that claim, but I think it's safe to say that hemp is amazing.
The hemp plant can be used to make hempcrete, which is a substance that can be used to build houses and other structures. Hemp can be used to make food, paper, and fiber. Hemp has even been used to make car parts.
Hemp used as a decontaminant
Hemp is very efficient at pulling heavy metals from soil. It's what helps it grow so hearty and so quickly. Trees take decades to harvest, whereas hemp only takes months.
Because of hemp's ability to pull metals from the soil, it can be used very effectively to clean up areas that are contaminated. One town in Italy (Taranto) is using hemp to clean up a contaminated area that has housed Europe's largest steel plant for a long time.
The steel plant, which opened in 1965, has ravaged the local ecosystem, pumping toxic levels of contaminants into the ground. It is estimated that from 2005-2012 alone, upwards of 11,000 local residents died as a result of health issues directly related to the steel plant.
“A long time ago, a choice was made to sacrifice this part of Italy, jeopardizing the health of the citizens of Taranto and its community and the biodiversity of the two seas,” said politician Domenico Finiguerra, according to Slate. “It was decided to sacrifice this land in the name of Italy’s economic future, supplying its industry with all the steel it needed.”
Hemp has been cultivated near the site of the steel plant for the last five years, with production increasing from 3 hectares to 300. About 100 farmers grow hemp, with the harvest being sold to manufacturers to be made into various products.
Hemp works, so why isn't its use more widespread?
Taranto, Italy is not the first time that hemp has been used to decontaminate the soil. For many centuries hemp was used as a rotation crop because it essentially flushed out the soil so it could be better conditioned for other crops.
Hemp was planted at the site of the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, along with various other plants such as sunflower plants. Hemp has consistently proven to be the best plant at decontaminating the soil it is planted in because of hemp's tremendous uptake ability.
Unfortunately, the reason why hemp isn't used more often is entirely for political reasons. It's certainly not for scientific reasons. Hemp is non-toxic. According to an estimate from the movie Hempsters, a person would have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole in order to feel euphoria from hemp. To overdose on it is humanly impossible.
The fact of the matter is that opponents have fought hemp legalization at all costs because of the plant's versatility, and the likely dramatic affect reform would have on many industries. It's not coincidence that many of the same people that have historically opposed hemp also come from industries that hemp reform would directly affect.
It's a shame too, because science is clearly on the side of hemp reform. I don't know that I would go as far as some people and claim that hemp will save the world, but I do feel confident in saying that hemp could go a long ways in helping improve the world in many ways.
Should the world better utilize hemp as a resource?