Airdate: Feb 18, 2016
Scientist: Kimberly Jones
Nanotech Water - Solid Waste
If nanoparticles from consumer particles end up in solid wastes, what effect could that have on the environment?
When certain substances are reduced to a very small size, their properties can change dramatically. That's been one of the driving forces behind nanotechnology and nanomaterials. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Jones: There are many examples of nano materials in use by consumers. One is nanoscale titanium dioxide, which you can find in sunscreen.
Kimberly Jones is a professor and the chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering at Howard University. She and her team have been investigating where nanoparticles end up in in our environment.
Jones: Nano Titanium Dioxide is magnified in terms of reflecting UV rays, which you want in a sunscreen. Imagine you lather on the sunscreen and you go take a shower, and the sunscreen washes off along with these nanoparticles, and the nanoparticles end up in our sewage, our wastewater treatment plant. And since a wastewater treatment plant is not designed to remove nanoscale material typically, then those nanoparticles would go through the wastewater treatment plant and end up in the solids.
Those solids are often shipped to farmers, who use it on their fields because biosolids are very effective fertilizers. So if you can imagine that some nanoparticles end up in the solids that are sent to farmers to spread out on the fields to grow food, then we want to make sure we understand - if there are nanoparticles in those solids, what effect will that have? Will the nanoparticles seat down into the ground? Will they just sit there? Will they end up in the groundwater? Can plants uptake the nanoparticles? So those are things that we really trying to learn more about.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. You can listen to this and previous programs on our daily podcast.