Algae-Based Biohacking

April 9, 2019
A experimental method for removing endocrine disruptors from wastewater

Man-made chemicals are ubiquitous today. Some of them can be harmful, however, and interfere with the body’s hormonal systems. These substances, called endocrine disruptors or EDCsare often found in plastic water bottles, metal food cans, detergents, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. They can also be found concentrated in treated effluent released from wastewater plants 

Researchers at the Desert Research Institute recently set out to explore the potential of a freshwater green algae species called Nannochlorisfor removing EDCs from treated wastewater.  

Scientists Xuelian Bai, Ph.D., and Kumud Acharya, Ph.D., grew Nannochloris algal cultures in two samples of wastewater effluents treated with differing methods and measured changes in the concentration of seven EDCs. Over a seven-day research period, they determined that the algae were able to remove certain endocrine disrupting chemicals from wastewater. But they also discovered that their efficacy was dependent upon the water treatment method. 

Bai and Acharya found that in wastewater treated using ultrafiltration methods, algae flourished and were able to remove 60% of the EDCs. Algae did not grow well or effectively remove contaminants from wastewater samples treated with ozonation. The team’s findings are published in the journal Environmental Pollution. 

This type of algae is very commonly found in any freshwater ecosystem around the world, but its potential for use in wastewater treatment hadn't been studied extensively, stated Bai in a press releaseWe wanted to explore whether this species might be a good candidate for use in an algal pond or constructed wetland to help remove wastewater contaminants. 

What are your impressions? Do you think that harnessing algae for contaminant removal may prove an effective solution? Could it help reduce EDC concentrations released via treated effluent?  

About the Author

Laura Sanchez

Laura Sanchez is the editor of Distributed Energy and Water Efficiency magazines.

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