THE DARK SIDE OF BLACK GOLD: Ecotoxicological aspects of biochar and biochar-amended soils

Paulina Godlewska, Yong Sik Ok, Patryk Oleszczuk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

166 Citations (Scopus)


Biochar, a product of biomass pyrolysis, is characterized by significant surface area, porosity, high water holding capacity, and environmental persistence. It is perceived as a material that can counteract climate change due to its high carbon stability and is also considered suitable for soil amendment (fertility improvement, soil remediation). However, biochar can have a toxic effect on organisms as harmful substances may be present in it. This paper reviews the literature regarding the current knowledge of harmful substances in biochar and their potential negative impact on organisms from different trophic levels. The effects of biochar on the content and toxicity of harmful substances in biochar-amended soils are also reviewed. Application of biochar into soil does not usually have a toxic effect and very often stimulate plants, bacteria activity and invertebrates. The effect however is strictly determined by type of biochar (especially the feedstock used and pyrolysis temperature) as well as contaminants content. The pH, electrical conductivity, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as well as heavy metals are the main factor usually responsible for biochar toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123833
JournalJournal of hazardous materials
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Feb 5

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • PAHs
  • biochar
  • ecotoxicity
  • fertilizers
  • potentially toxic elements
  • soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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