Microbial Life in Environments Altered by Humans

Created by Julian Deiss

Environments Altered by Humans are ones that seem inhospitable to most life. Toxic environments are typically regarded as ones capable of causing injury or death through exposure to radiation, solvents, metals, metalloids, and gases interfering with normal metabolic functions.

Environments Altered by Humans


Environments Altered by Humans contain a wide variety of conditions that make them generally regarded as unsuitable for life. These environments range from being highly radioactive to containing chemicals, metals, and gases that disrupt normal metabolic function. Microbes have been found degrading such toxic chemicals as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), TCE (TriChloroEthene), MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether), halogenated aromatics, and Dioxins. Toxic metals that have been observed to be metabolized by microbes include but not limited to Cadmium, Chrome, Cobalt, and Mercury. Because the pervasiveness of many of these compounds via industrial processes and careless disposal, microbes are being studied and implemented to clean up contaminated sites through in situ bioremediation.

Challenges facing microbes living in environments altered by humans

Microbes living in environments regarded as toxic face many challenges from the chemicals in these environments. The activity of these chemicals in toxic environments range from disruption of cell membranes, chemical oxidation, to DNA mutation acting on the microbes in these environments. Many of the microbes in these environments use the toxic substance as substrates. These microbes are of particular interest to remediation of these toxic environments.

Altered by Humans Collections

General Collection: News articles, web sites, and reference pages, providing information about the microbes that live in toxic environments.

Advanced Collection: Contains content for professionals and advanced learners, this collection includes resources such as journal abstracts and articles, academic reviews, and bibliographies.

Educational Collection: This collection contains activities, assignments, and reading materials created for educators.

Sites Altered by Humans and Bioremediation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency super fund site: Find locations of toxic sites and the evaluation process from start to finish.

Battelle PNWD Chlorinated Solvent Bioremediation Home Page

Battelle PNWD Chlorinated Solvent Bioremediation Home Page; in situ bioremediation of chlorinated solvents

Additional Resources

The complete collection of resources about microbial life in Environments Altered by Humans is now available.