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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

East Tennessee Faculty and Alumnus Publish Article on Mercury Detection in Water

Dr. Lok Pokhrel, an alumnus of the ETSU College of Public Health, and Dr. Phil Scheuerman, Professor in the Department of Environmental Health in the College of Public Health are co-authors on an article in Science of the Total Environment. The article, “Novel carbon nanotube (CNT)-based ultrasensitive sensors for trace mercury(II) detection in water: A review,” discusses the specificity and sensitivity of five types of engineered carbon nanotube (CNT)-based sensor systems to mercury detection.


[Photo: Dr. Lok Pokhrel]

Infamous for “Mad hatter syndrome” and “Minamata disease”, mercury is ranked high on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s priority list of hazardous substances for its potent neurologic, renal, and developmental toxicities. Most people are exposed to mercury by contaminated water or food (notably fish). Although regulations and advisories are exercised at various levels, mercury pollution from both natural and man-made sources has remained a major public health and safety concern.  The ability to rapidly detect mercury in a food or water source is essential to protect against mercury poisoning, especially in the most vulnerable (young children, pregnant and breast-feeding women).

Phil Scheuerman

[Photo: Dr. Phil Scheuerman]

It is, however, particularly difficult to detect trace levels of mercury in water.

The article reviews five types of CNT-based sensor systems and describe the sensitivity and selectivity of each.    The authors believe the knowledge from their review will guide the development of next generation CNT-based biochemical sensors for rapid mercury detection in the environment.

Dr. Pokhrel is an ETSU Alumnus who graduated with a PhD degree from the College of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health in 2013. He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health in Temple University’s College of Public Health.   Among the co-authors is Brajesh Dubey, a former faculty member of the ETSU Department of Environmental Health.