Saving Our Seas - Cleaning Up Our Oceans
Reported November 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) --Each year millions of gallons of pollutants end up in our oceans, including engine oil from cars, sewage, chemical spill runoff from industrial plants, and oil spills. Now, we’ll tell you about a new technology that can help spot and track dangerous contaminants in the oceans faster than any other current method.
The ocean covers two-thirds of the surface of the earth. Over 40 percent are heavily polluted, harmful to what’s living in it and out of it. Now, environmental scientists and immunologists have a new way to detect chemicals in the ocean faster, and cheaper than current methods.
“If a beach needs to be closed down, we have a sensor to take a sample quickly and determine if it is, going to be concentrations that are harmful to the human, human ah health,” Candace Spier, Ph.D., a student at Virginia Institute of Marine Science told Ivanhoe.
Researchers have developed a biosensor – a portable device that can detect very tiny amounts of contaminants in the ocean in less than ten minutes.
“This sensor can be brought to the field instead of bringing the sample back to the lab and the sensor can also determine the concentrations on site,” Dr. Spier said.
Just as antibodies attach themselves to germs and viruses in your body, researchers are using antibodies to identify pollution in water. As a water sample flows through the sensor, antibodies -- mixed with a dye-- bind to any contaminants. When the dye is exposed to fluorescent light it glows, revealing the level of pollution present.
“Having the ability to analyze these chemicals and analyze them rapidly in the environment is a real boon to environmental scientists,” Mike Unger, Ph.D., an environmental chemist at Virginia Institute of Marine Science told Ivanhoe.
Scientists plan to take the sensor to the Gulf of Mexico to study long term effects from the BP oil spill.
"We can sample a big area like the Gulf of Mexico and find out where the oil went and what kinds of concentrations are there and what potential harm it has caused,” Dr. Unger said.
Helping heal the planet, faster than ever.
Tests have shown the biosensor is just as accurate as the more expensive, slower and lab-bound machines.
The American Geophysical Union contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:
Michael A. Unger
Associate Professor of Marine Science
Environmental & Aquatic Animal Health
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
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