Researchers develop yarn-like fiber capable of capturing hormones from wastewaterMarie Donlon | November 04, 2019
Researchers from Finland’s Aalto University and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have created a yarn-like material that is capable of capturing pharmaceutical residues before they contaminate large bodies of water.
The yarn, which is composed of a wood-based cellulose fiber, is coated with a cyclic sugar that chemically binds to the yarn. The combination of yarn and sugar create pockets within the fiber that attract and capture hydrophobic pharmaceutical substances such as ethinylestradiol (EE2), which is a hormone commonly found in the birth control pill.
Researchers discovered during trials of the yarn that approximately 1 g of the yarn effectively captured roughly 2.5 mg of EE2.
The team envisions that the wood-based yarn would prove most effective at hospitals and in wastewater treatment plants, capturing pharmaceuticals before they can enter large bodies of water and affect the wildlife that resides there.
Notably, it has been reported that chemicals from human waste treatment plants traveling though rivers and streams have altered the behaviors of fish, where male fish have been demonstrating largely female behaviors such as laying eggs. This is thought to be associated with exposure to the hormones found in the birth control pill, called endocrine disruptors.
Generally, activated sludge tanks are used to capture such substances at wastewater treatment plants, however, some substances manage to pass through the systems, thereby entering larger bodies of water.
The fiber designed to attempt to capture such problematic pharmaceutical substances is detailed in the journal Biomacromolecules.