Talk on Emerging Contaminants

Lee Blaney, a professor in Maryland who did his undergraduate and masters degree here at Lehigh, came to give a talk about contaminants that are appearing more consistently in waterways and sediments.  He explained that in 80% of streams across the world, traces of pharmaceuticals and hormones have been found.  80%!! Some of the major chemicals that are affecting animals and ecosystems include BPA, the active ingredient in the birth control pill, and oxybenzone.  The active ingredient in birth control is fully synthetic and an anthropogenic endocrine disrupter.  For example, when 4 ng/L  of it was encountered by fish, the whole fish population suffered from intersex condition and became female.  Also, oxybenzone, which is the uv protectant in sunscreen, has been found to contribute to the bleaching of corals.  Dr. Blaney talked about the solutions that would ameliorate this problem of anthropogenic chemicals in our water.  His lab is currently doing research in using UV to destroy the chemicals, which could be implemented at a wastewater treatment plant.  However, when some of these pharmaceutical chemicals are split up by UV radiation, their byproducts are more harmful than the original molecule.  Other byproducts are molecules that could react with other chemicals to form harmful products, or molecules whose safety has never been tested before.  So, anthropogenic compounds in our waterways lead to harmful consequences, and finding a way to destroy them is proving to be extremely difficult.  This is why Dr. Blaney’s research is extremely important; as long as these chemicals continue to find a way into the water, we need to figure out what they are doing and how to get rid of them, for the safety of people and the surrounding ecosystems.

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About ludevon16

I am a Lehigh University IDEAS Environmental Engineering student focusing on a mix of biology, chemistry, environmental science, and sustainability. This summer I am participating in the Low-Energy Sustainable Farming Mountaintop Project at Lehigh, after coming back from a semester abroad in Freiburg, Germany. The previous summer I participated in an REU at Cal Poly researching phytoremediation. I am passionate about environmental remediation and want to pursue a career in the field after (fingers crossed) going to grad school. I am a flautist in the LU Philharmonic Orchestra, a student tutor for orgo, a member of LU's Finest step dancing team, and an inmate tutor for the Lehigh Prison Project. I like to rock climb, run, read, and play ukulele! View all posts by ludevon16

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