Airdate: Feb 16, 2016
Scientist: Kimberly Jones
Nanotech Water - Caffeine
According to US Geological Survey, much of the fresh water in the US is contaminated by caffeine.
You might be surprised to hear what ends up in our water supply and what the limitations are in many water treatment plants. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Jones: We think about ways to improve the processes that remove contaminants from drinking water and also from wastewater.
Kimberly Jones is a professor and the chair of the Department of civil and environmental engineering at Howard University.
Jones: We employ things like nanotechnology to incorporate them into some of the more tried-and-true unit operations for removing contaminants from water and wastewater.
One example are pharmaceutical products. We know that as society progresses, we use more pharmaceuticals than we ever have before. For example, you take a pill for something. It's designed to react in your body somehow, but you don't metabolize all of that medicine. It then goes through your body. It ends up in the sewerage. It goes to a wastewater treatment plant. If the wastewater treatment plant isn't designed to remove those compounds, which they traditionally aren't - because were just discovering them in our water recently, then we have to to change what we do in a wastewater treatment plant to remove the pharmaceuticals. One very common example is just caffeine.
Caffeine is considered a pharmaceutical because it has an effect on your body. Caffeine is a stimulant and since it has an impact on the human body, we can hypothesize that it probably has an effect on fish and other other living organisms in our receiving bodies of water.
So a few years ago the United States Geological Survey took a nationwide study of pharmaceuticals in waters in the United States, and in 80% of the waters that they tested, they found one or more pharmaceutical contaminants, with one of the most common contaminants being caffeine.
In future programs, we'll hear what steps are being taken to remove pharmaceuticals in water treatment plants. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation.