The Q&A Archives: Effects Of Pollution On Plants

Question: My son is interested in doing an 8th grade science project investigating the effects of enviromental pollution on plant growth. He wants to grow vegetables from seeds and expose them to different types of common pollutants that would have an effect on growth and productivity. Can you help with advise on what type of plant seed would work best as well as what pollutants would be advisable and safe for a 8th grader to investigate. Thank you very much for your help in this matter.

Answer: First of all, I'll give you a web site that helps students design science projects:

If he'll be growing the plants under fluorescent lights, he can use a variety of plants--tomatoes, beans, marigolds, etc. If he is using only natural sunlight (i.e. a windowsill) then he might be better off with something like lettuce that does better in lower light levels.

As far as pollutants, have him think about household products that might mimic real pollutants. For example, he might use a saltwater solution to imitate road salt, a vinegar solution to imitate acid rain, or vegetable oil to imitate oil spills. A good project might be to take one of these, say, vinegar, and dilute it to varying concentrations, then compare how the different solutions affect plant growth. He could then look at how the pH of the solution compares to that of acid rain.

I hope this helps.

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