Traditional wastewater treatment processes do not remove pharmaceuticals well. Consequently, wastewater from our homes and businesses are treated and put back in our water supply often with pharmaceuticals still in the water, which can affect humans by increasing antibiotic resistance as well as our aquatic ecosystems in countless ways.
The Texas A&M School of Public Health, in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, has been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) of $330,000 to work on identifying effective and sustainable water treatment technologies critical to meeting the urgent global need for clean water.
Dr. Virender Sharma and Dr. Leslie Cizmas will lead the School of Public Health research efforts, specifically working with ferrate, supercharged iron, in the removal of pharmaceuticals and their metabolites from human waste. Dr. Sharma is a pioneer in ferrate research, which can disinfect without leaving harmful by-products.
Among the various materials used in water treatment processes, iron-based materials have garnered more attention because of their special attributes. They are earth-abundant, environmentally friendly, and they have a magnetic property that enables their recyclability, easy reuse, and separation after technological applications, thus rendering their use sustainable.
Drs. Sharma and Cizmas will develop ferrate-based advanced oxidation for destruction of pharmaceuticals and their metabolites in source-separated human urine. Ecotoxicity studies will be used to assess reductions in contaminant toxicity. Particular emphasis will be placed on elucidating the oxidation mechanisms and optimizing urine treatment efficiency.
“Water scarcity is predicted to be a major problem in the next century. Water reuse is likely to become more common, and we need to develop sustainable methods for managing our water resources,” said Dr. Sharma.
[Photo: Dr. Leslie Cizmas and Virender Sharma]