Making Medicine Out of...Recycled LCD Screens??

TVs and pills image

Image from Creative Commons, Ragesoss and Wikimedia

A particular chemical used in LCD display screens can also be used in medicine from pills to bandages. Researchers are hoping this is a solution not just for hospital patients but also for e-waste.Eurekalert reports that polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) is a key ingredient in LCD screens, and it turns out can also be used in medicine as in ingredient for making tissue scaffolding to help parts of the body regenerate. Researchers from The University's department of Chemistry have figured out a way to recover the chemical from LCD displays and turn it into this medicinal compound, which could be put into pills or dressings.

The research is in a paper titled "Expanding the potential for waste polyvinyl-alcohol," published in Green Chemistry.

The unique twist to this research - as if we need anything stranger than using old TVs for medicine - is that the discovery comes to us not through researchers seeing the medical use of PVA and then looking at sources for it, but rather researchers looking at what to do with e-waste, and finding a medical use for it.

Professor James Clark, director of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and one of the author's of the research, said: "With 2.5 billion liquid crystal displays already reaching the end of their life, and LCD televisions proving hugely popular with consumers, that is a huge amount of potential waste to manage.

"It is important that we find ways of recycling as many elements of LCDs as possible so we don't simply have to resort to burying and burning them."

Clark explains that even though PVA isn't a major environmental hazard, there's no sense in wasting it since it is a non-renewable resource. And because LCD waste from electrical and electronic equipment is the fastest growing waste stream in the European Union, it makes sense to find some use for LCDs other than incinerating or landfilling them.

We're expecting that a whole lot of research will have to go into this to ensure it's safe. But if it turns out to be so, perhaps there will be a more direct corollary between recycling TVs and saving lives.

More on e-Waste
What Happens To E-Waste Generated By The Shift To High Definition Television?
Short Documentary Shows Toxic Trail of "Recycled" E-Waste Leads Overseas
e-Waste Expected to Plateau by 2015

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