CSI Nature: Tracking Water Pollution with Artificial Sweeteners

sugar coffee photo

Photo: himitsu.monban, CC
Playing Detective with the Sweet Stuff
You discovered some polluted water. Now what? Well, you have find the source of that pollution if you want to be able to do something about it. It turns out that among the many markers that can give us clues about the source of pollution are artificial sweeteners. "After tickling the tongue, artificial sweeteners pass through our bodies and end up in wastewater virtually unchanged." Tracking them can give important information about the source of the pollution. Read on for more details.From Discovery News:

Contaminated groundwater is both an environmental and public health issue. Once run-off gets into the environment, though, it can be hard to know whether it came from industry, agricultural fields, traffic, homes or other sources. Scientists have been looking for marker molecules that might help them track down and possibly reduce some of these inputs.

Previous candidates for markers have included caffeine, pharmaceuticals and components of personal care products. Most of these chemicals, however, either break down quickly, appear in quantities too small to easily detect, or seep out of the water and into the soil.

So if some of these sweeteners are found in groundwater sources that aren't supposed to be exposed to contaminated wastewater, it's probably a sign that wastewater is still finding a way to get to it. This can help us find problems with our current water treatment processes.

Via Discovery News
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