Bacteria-based Pollution Testing


New Zealand scientists hope to put bacteria into unique "biosensors" that will detect pollutants in the field, doing away with the need to collect numerous samples for laboratory testing. If it works, biosensing would be faster and cheaper than present testing methods, The New Zealand Herald reports.

The world market for pollution tests is massive and the market for one test alone, which measures oxygen loss in water, is worth $1.2 billion a year, according to Dr. Neil Pasco, of Lincoln University in Canterbury, New Zealand.

"There is work being done overseas which is dependent on inserting foreign material into bacteria. We are not doing that," Pasco says. "There is not one single chemical responsible for toxicity." There can be a whole soup of things that can be toxic, but in sites where toxic chemicals have been dumped, the organisms (bacteria) will develop certain characteristics, according to Pasco.

"The bacteria would be contained on the sensor, and there would be no danger that they would escape into the environment," Pasco says.

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