When you take an antibiotic or another drug, some of it ultimately goes down the drain and ends up in public water supplies. Researchers at Purdue University Northwest are hoping that a device used to take gasoline additives out of water could also work for drugs.
With every sip of water you take, you ingest low levels of chemicals found in drugs like antibiotics. That could be building up your resistance to the life-saving drugs. Chemistry professor Rey Barreto and his team are hoping their device can degrade these chemicals in water using light.
“When you buy drugs at the store they come in a brown bottle. That brown bottle is specifically to reduce the amount of light that these things are exposed to,” says Barreto.
It works like this: The water is run through a series of glass tubes lined with fluorescent lights and filled with glass beads. The beads are coated with titanium dioxide — a catalyst also found in white latex paint — that helps the light to degrade the chemicals faster.
Barreto says there are other ways to take antibiotics out of water, but they tend to be expensive and don’t often work for large-scale processes like in your local water treatment plant.
The team is still testing the device to understand the variety of chemicals it could remove.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.