Detection of biological contaminants in water samples Envirotech Online

The demands on the Earth’s resources are increasing as the population grows and own resources become scarce. Water is one of the main resources needed – and unfortunately, we have not been great stewards of the world’s water supply. The ubiquitous face mask even appears on the seabed, and we’ve only had Covid-19 for a year.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are one of the many pollutants found in water, which are classified along with many other pollutants as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs can be highly toxic both to humans and to other animals and flora. Therefore, researchers have developed methods to detect and clean up contaminated water. Researchers at the University of Valencia recently developed a new method to filter and clean contaminated water, and they used gas chromatography to detect contaminants in the water supply.

PCBs are man-made organic chemicals containing carbon, hydrogen and chlorine atoms. They can be a liquid or waxy solid depending on the number of chloride atoms and their configuration. The properties of PCBs, including flammability, chemical stability and electrical insulation properties, have made their use in hundreds of different industrial applications attractive, including electrical equipment, plasticizers in paint and plastics and carbon paper.

But it was found that PCBs can be highly toxic to humans and the environment, so their manufacture was banned in many countries at the end of the last century. But they are still used because of their stability. And it is their chemical stability that makes it so dangerous in the environment as they do not break down easily and build up to dangerous levels. In a press release, Carolina Belenguer of the University of Valencia said: In recent decades, industrial and social development has led to an exponential increase in environmental pollution.

Details of the method developed by the University of Valencia team were published in an article titled A New Proposal for the Determination of Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Environmental Water Using Host-Guest Adsorption in the journal Science of The Total Environment. The method filters water contaminated with the retained polychlorinated biphenyls. The absorbent material contains silica modified with cyclodextrin molecules which allows selective extraction of contaminants.

Contaminants removed by the method were analyzed by gas chromatography with electron capture detector (GC-ECD). GC-ECD is known to be sensitive to halogen compounds and therefore was ideal for this method. Improving the analysis of larger molecules is discussed in the article, Rapid analysis of biomolecules using smaller and innovative particles. The method developed by the team makes it possible to analyze low levels of PCBs in a relatively fast time. It also has the advantages of being cheap, simple and durable.

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