Agilent Technologies has announced it will begin collaborations with the University of Arizona's Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering's BIO5 Institute to develop ways to detect and treat emerging contaminants in drinking water. While a considerable body of work has been done in the area of potable water quality and safety this research stands apart from the rest in the way it treats contaminants as mixtures rather than separate chemicals that are usually targeted individually.
Dr. Shane Snyder - an internationally recognized authority on water contamination from the University of Arizona's Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering who will be heading-up the project explains: "Not only will we investigate known potential threats to water quality, we will also bridge the gap between detection and health by developing methodologies that can screen water for toxicity from multiple compounds."
Move forward to September 2009 when the EPA released the Contaminant Candidate List 3 (CCL3), a list of 116 drinking water contaminants. These include pharmaceuticals, pesticides, disinfection by-products, chemicals from manufacturing, waterborne pathogens, and biological toxins. An example of example one of these is the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), a class that contains steroids such as cortisone.
These APIs can end up in waste water as a result of bathing, where a person has say been applying cortisone topically to their sore hamstring. These APIs can then make their way into the drinking water and into your body. The effect on humans of consuming such contaminants is still largely unknown however studies on fish that live in streams contaminated by steroids have shown significant hormone disruption. There is also concern that exposure to antibiotics in drinking water could increase the occurrence of drug-resistant strains of bacteria and diseases.
"The partnership with Agilent allows the University of Arizona to more effectively influence water reuse and desalination strategies by ensuring that the required water quality has been achieved for its intended use," said Dr Snyder.
The deal will see Agilent provide the university and BIO5 with detection equipment. This includes technology that enables the development of chemical signatures unique to a particular water source.
The research will be centered at the BIO5 Institute on the University of Arizona campus, where the infrastructure for cross-cutting work combining biological and chemical research already exists.
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