Drinking water contaminated with metal ions can cause negative health effects in humans. Acute heavy metal poisoning can cause such symptoms as vomiting and fainting, while chronic heavy metal poisoning can lead to organ failure and death. It has previously been shown that concentration of metal ions in water solution was decreased by algae. This paper reports a study to examine the ability of two Chlamydomonas reinhardtii algae strains to remove copper ions from water solution. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was chosen for this study because it is easy to culture, and can be used to generate strains with a higher efficiency to remove metals. In this study, the three-factor, two-level full factorial design was used to conduct experiments. Three factors were algae strain, initial copper concentration, and exposure time. Two levels of the algae strain are: cc125 — the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii strain found commonly in the wild, and AGG1 — an experimentally modified Chlamydomonas reinhardtii strain. Two levels of initial copper concentration and exposure time were 1.5 and 3 ppm, and 2.5 and 5 hours, respectively. Copper concentration in the water solution after experiments was measured using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, or ICP-MS. Statistical analysis showed that algae strain was the only factor that significantly affected percentage decrease in copper concentration, at the significance level of 0.05. The cc125 strain decreased copper concentration more efficiently than the AGG1 strain. The cc125 strain decreased copper concentration by 97% for the water solution with an initial copper concentration of 1.5 ppm, and by 90% for the solution with an initial copper concentration of 3 ppm. Copper concentrations of all solutions treated by the cc125 strain were below the Environmental Protection Agency pollution threshold level of 1.3 ppm.

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