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New method developed to remove harmful drugs from wastewater

Hospital wastewater is very toxic due to the presence of drugs in it which in turn leads to major environmental issues. A group of researchers from Belgium and India have developed a novel method of treating wastewater to get rid of such harmful substances from hospital waste. The wastewater may contain cytostatic drugs which are known to cause severe and irreversible damages to human body especially from hospitals specializing in cancer treatment.

Researchers have developed a slurry photocatalytic membrane reactor which involves a filtration process similar to the one used to purify drinking water. This device needs a light source like an LED to work. Scientists used a catalyst, titanium dioxide, to breakdown drugs. It is easily available, efficient, stable and not toxic. Monika Kundu Srivastava

The membrane used as a barrier to stop the drugs could be made up of a polymer or ceramic. Though polymers have small and distinct pore sizes and are capable of stopping the large-sized cytostatic drugs, previous studies have proved that ceramic membranes are able to withstand the inevitable `wear and tear’ associated with the filtration process better when these membranes also come in contact with various chemicals. Ceramic membranes were used in this study.

As waste water with cytostatic drugs enters photoreactor, the light source activates or ‘fires up’ the catalyst (titanium dioxide) breaking it up into two parts—titanium and ‘free’ oxygen. The ‘free’ oxygen then combines with the cytostatic drugs in waste water and breaks them into smaller parts thus making them ‘safer’.

If any drug particles are left unchanged, the membrane prevents them from passing through. Thereafter, the mixture goes into another part of the reactor where the catalyst is removed and re-circulated to the photoreactor. The results of this study were published in the journal Science of the Total Environment recently.

Article shared from ‘India Science Wire’

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