Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biosensors To Probe The Metals Menace

Date:
September 2, 2007
Source:
Cooperative Research Centre
Summary:
New technology can warn people if their local water or air is contaminated with dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals and metal-like substances. They are studying the changes that take place in a unique water microbe when it is exposed to arsenic, cadmium and lead -- industrial and natural contaminants around the world.

Scientists are developing water organisms that can act as an early warning tool for air and water contamination.
Credit: Image courtesy of CRC CARE

If the pond life goes star-shaped, you'd be wise not to drink the water.

Related Articles


Researchers from CRC CARE are pioneering a world-first technology to warn people if their local water or air is contaminated with dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals and metal-like substances.

Andrew McKay, a PhD student at CRC CARE and The University of Queensland, is studying the changes that take place in a unique water microbe when it is exposed to arsenic, cadmium and lead -- industrial and natural contaminants around the world.

"Our goal is to develop a simple field test that can warn people or environmental authorities if dangerous levels of toxic metals or metalloids (metal-like substances such as arsenic) are present in the environment, to which they might be exposed," he explains.

The test could provide vital in helping to tackle one of the world's greatest disasters -- the poisoning of tens of millions of people in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, through naturally--occurring arsenic in their household well water.

"But countries such as Australia and New Zealand also have an arsenic problem from the tens of thousands of old sheep and cattle dips where arsenic was used for decades to control pests," Mr McKay said.

"In many cases these old dip sites have been forgotten and spreading urbanization has covered them.

"We also have numerous old gold mining sites where arsenic was once used, tailings dumps from almost any kind of metal mine and wetlands that were used to trap contaminated runoff."

Mr McKay said old factories which produced paint or batteries had left historical residues of lead in our inner city areas, while fertilizer plants and other industrial processes had deposited cadmium and other toxic metals.

"If toxic metals are present in the soil there is always a risk they will leach into drinking water, get into our food chain and reach infants and children," he said.

"As city land value increase due to demand, we need better ways to make sure the land is clean and safe to live and work on."

He said there was good progress in developing water organisms as an early warning tool for such contamination, especially where a mix of toxic contaminants is involved.

"We've found a number of readily-observable changes which take place in the organism when it is exposed to increased levels of toxic metals and metalloids," he said.

"Their growth and reproduction rates slow down and their shape changes -- becoming star or V-shaped.

"And of course, at high levels of the toxins, they die."

These changes will enable scientists to use the pond creatures as living sensors -- or biosensors -- for toxic metal contamination.

The current research challenge, he says, is to use the organisms to develop a sensitive enough test to discern whether or not the level of contamination poses a risk to human health and life.

Simple pond creatures are often more tolerant of metals than humans, who accumulate the toxins over a much longer period of time, leading to cancers, immune system breakdown, nerve or brain damage or other forms of poisoning.

The research task now is to equate the symptoms observed in the microbes with levels of risk to humans and animals, and to package this as a cheap, simple test that can provide a quick answer in the field -- rather than through long and expensive laboratory testing, Mr McKay said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cooperative Research Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cooperative Research Centre. "Biosensors To Probe The Metals Menace." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829102041.htm>.
Cooperative Research Centre. (2007, September 2). Biosensors To Probe The Metals Menace. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829102041.htm
Cooperative Research Centre. "Biosensors To Probe The Metals Menace." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829102041.htm (accessed March 4, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) An explosion ripped through a coal mine before dawn Wednesday in war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing at least one miner, officials said. Graphic video of injured miners being treated in a Donetsk hospital. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) The Australian Museum has taken in its fourth-ever goblin shark, a rare fish with an electricity-sensing snout and &apos;alien-like&apos; jaw. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) takes a look. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mount Everest Has a Poop Problem

Mount Everest Has a Poop Problem

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) With no bathrooms to use, climbers of Mount Everest have been leaving human waste on the mountain for years, and it&apos;s becoming a health issue. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) has more. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins