Forest Debris and Crushed Seashells Filter Radioactive Waste from Water

water photo

Photo by cogdogblog via Flickr CC

Radioactive waste in water is a big concern after the problems in Japan, but it turns out that there is a solution for filtering the waste from water supplies. By combining forest byproducts with crushed crustacean shells, researchers at North Carolina University have created a new material for cleaning radioactive waste in water. North Carolina State University researchers created the new solid foam material to deal with contaminants, and found that it can absorb water extract contaminants like radioactive iodide as well as heavy metals. For smaller water supplies, it can be used like a tea bag, dipping it into the water for it to absorb the toxins. Or it can be used like a filter with water poured through it.

"As we're currently seeing in Japan, one of the major health risks posed by nuclear accidents is radioactive iodide that dissolves into drinking water. Because it is chemically identical to non-radioactive iodide, the human body cannot distinguish it - which is what allows it to accumulate in the thyroid and eventually lead to cancer," says Dr. Joel Pawlak, associate professor of forest biomaterials. "The material that we've developed binds iodide in water and traps it, which can then be properly disposed of without risk to humans or the environment."

Last year we saw another research breakthrough for cleaning water that is a "tea bag" of antimicrobial fibers, which can clean water instantly. However, it can't go as far as plucking out radioactive waste.

As we learn more about radioactive waste in Japan contaminating water sources, the new material from North Carolina State University could be put to the test. Currently, the Japanese government has already asked wastewater treatment facilities to keep rainwater out of supplies, and treat for radionuclide removal.

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