Scientists from the University of Birmingham used water fleas to remove chemicals from wastewater. Conclusions of the work described in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
Modern treatment plants may not remove all chemicals from industrial wastewater because some compounds are quite resistant to attack. As a result, substances end up in rivers, streams and irrigation systems. This leads to a reduction in the biodiversity of ecosystems, as well as contamination of food and water.
Now experts have presented an inexpensive and environmentally friendly method of water purification using water fleas. These animals belong to the genus Daphnia and are tiny crustaceans that can filter water by absorbing particles of algae, bacteria and even chemicals.
The team selected four species of water fleas that consume the drug diclofenac, the pesticide atrazine, arsenic and PFAS industrial chemicals. The most promising species were then cloned and analyzed. Further testing showed that Daphnia absorbed 90 percent diclofenac, 60 percent arsenic, 59 percent atrazine and 50 percent PFAS in the lab. In natural conditions, similar results were obtained. There is currently no method that is as effective for breaking down PFAS in water.
It is important that fleas maintain their population depending on the amount of nutrients. If access to sufficient food is cut off, individuals stop reproducing.
The authors emphasize that the approach can be used in complex wastewater treatment plants and in developing countries with underdeveloped infrastructure.