The foursome has designed an advanced wastewater treatment system which would remove 90 per cent of pharmaceuticals and endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) using commercially available technology. Currently no such sewage treatment plant exists in North America.
At a time when tap water is being hailed as the environmentally responsible choice over bottled water, the amount of pharmaceutical medications making their way into the water supply through improper disposal and bodily elimination warrants some concern. As part of their final-year undergraduate project, Kirill Cheiko, Reuben Fernandes, Charles Gilmour and Pawel Kita used research data from academic and industry sources to design an award-winning simulated wastewater treatment plant to deal with the potentially harmful waste.
“In Canada, the government doesn’t enforce the removal of pharmaceutical drugs and EDCs, including Bisphenol A, from wastewater. As a result, municipalities don’t currently pursue removal, since it would incur extra expense,” said Cheiko. “That said, it could also potentially reduce health-care costs.”
Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs are flushed down the toilet. Others cannot be fully metabolized by the body and are eliminated soon after administration. While the rate of elimination varies (at least five per cent of acetaminophen and up to 80 per cent of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin), the final result is the same: biologically resistant contaminants end up in municipal wastewater.
Eventually, those chemicals enter the environment and the drinking water supply. While there haven’t been any studies done to determine the long-term effects of these pharmaceuticals and EDCs on humans, concerns have nevertheless been raised. Even in trace amounts, for example, chemotherapy drugs can inhibit normal cell function; and pain-relievers and blood-pressure diuretics can lead to liver damage. Regarding reproduction and development, pharmaceuticals and EDCs have also been implicated in such conditions as polycystic ovarian syndrome and hypospadias (a birth defect involving the male urethra).
The students’ proposed innovative design uses two processes in combination, both using commercially available technology. First, wastewater is subjected to membrane biological reactors. This activity increases the amount of bacteria already present in the treatment process and makes them “hungrier.” From there, sewage goes through an advanced oxidization process. Typically used to treat drinking water, this process works in the same way as an antioxidant does in the body: it destroys harmful toxins. But whereas most wastewater treatment plants use chlorine as a disinfectant the students proposed using ultraviolet light (UV) and hydrogen peroxide for the purposes of advanced oxidation and disinfection. Normally, UV light would be unable to penetrate murky wastewater, but after undergoing the membrane biological reactor, liquid waste in the students’ simulated wastewater treatment plants would be clear enough to permit the use of UV light. Afterwards, the students concluded, the wastewater would be clean enough to go straight into lakes and rivers.
The students and faculty advisor Professor Manuel Alvarez Cuenca are seeking funding to test the proposal in Ryerson’s Laboratory of Water Treatment Technologies. They also recommend, however, that municipalities conduct their own research and set up pilot studies around the areas’ hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The price of not acting could be severe, warn the students. “The chronic effects on the human population are still unknown, but we are working with a cautionary principle,” says Fernandes. “It’s worth our time to work on this problem.”
The group’s project, Treating Pharmaceuticals and Endocrine Disruptors at the Source: An Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant Design, placed 1st for Social Awareness and received an honourable mention for their innovative design of an advanced wastewater treatment plant at the 2010 Ontario Engineering Competition in Waterloo, Ontario.
Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers close to 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to 28,000 students, including 2,000 master’s and PhD students, nearly 2,700 tenured and tenure-track faculty and staff, and more than 130,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past four years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education.
Heather Kearney | Newswise Science News
Further reports about: > Bisphenol A > Cancer treatment > Design Thinking > EDC > Ferchau Engineering > Pharmaceuticals > UV light > Wastewater > drinking water > innovative design > pharmaceutical drug > treatment plan > treatment plants > wastewater treatment > wastewater treatment plants > water supply > water treatment > water treatment plants
Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
16.08.2018 | Life Sciences
16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences
16.08.2018 | Life Sciences