It has been reported?that some pharmaceuticals from human waste treatment plants, especially ethinylestradiol found in contraceptive pills, end up in rivers and streams and alter the behaviors of fish, where male fish demonstrate largely female behaviors such as laying eggs. These pharmaceuticals are called endocrine disruptors, since they affect the gender of fish and turn male fish into females. This has been identified as a challenging problem, because even though activated sludge tanks are used to capture such substances at wastewater treatment plants, some substances still manage to pass through the systems, thereby entering larger bodies of water.
To tackle this problem, research scientists from VTT and Aalto University have developed a wood-based cellulose fiber yarn that can capture hormones and other pharmaceutical substances effectively. The surface of the yarn is coated with a cyclic sugar that captures the compounds into the cavities of the fiber as it swells in water. Furthermore, the researchers discovered during trials of the yarn that approximately 1 g of the yarn effectively captured roughly 2.5 mg of EE2.
Since the wastewater in hospitals and wastewater treatment plants contains higher concentration of these pharmaceuticals, the scientists believe that the hormone capture would be most effective around these facilities, before they can enter large bodies of water and affect the wildlife that resides there. VTT’s Senior Scientist Hannes Orelma reported that his team is developing a wood-based affordable material that could be thrown into a tank in a wastewater treatment plant or used as a filter in a pipe connected to the tank. After some time, the material is collected mechanically. It is disposed of by incineration, but it is also possible to separate the pharmaceuticals and reuse the material. It would be interesting to test how effectively the cellulose yarns can capture hormones and pharmaceuticals from wastewater at a larger scale, states Orelma.
The development of the material started in 2015 as a collaborative effort between VTT and Aalto University. The development was funded by Tekes (currently known as Business Finland) under the Design Driven Value Chains in the World of Cellulose II project. At present, the design and development of the material is supported by the Academy of Finland and proceeds in the FinnCERES Materials Cluster that develops entirely new kinds of biomaterials. Clean air and water is one of the key research themes of FinnCERES . Please find more info at this link: www.finnceres.fi.