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Want to safely break down eco-unfriendly plastic? Try fungus

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May 13, 2010

The fungi used to absorb BPA from polycarbonate

The fungi used to absorb BPA from polycarbonate

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Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, isn’t something you want leaching into the environment. It’s the compound in polycarbonate plastic that has been suspected of causing health problems since the 1930’s, and that more recently got people all over the world throwing out their plastic water bottles. When polycarb is broken down in the recycling process, or even when it’s just left in the dump, its BPA content is released. Where it ends up is a question that has a lot of people worried. A new study, however, indicates that fungus could be used to keep BPA at bay.

Scientists Trishul Artham and Mukesh Doble, of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, conducted the research. They started by treating polycarbonate plastic strips with 100C (212F) heat for 30 days, then with ultraviolet light for 10 days. This was to generate free radicals, which would in turn break down the plastic’s molecular structure. They then exposed the strips to three kinds of fungus, including white-rot fungus, which is commercially used for cleaning up pollutants. A control group of plastics were not treated.

After 12 months, the untreated plastic (left) showed much less decomposition than the trea...

They discovered that the fungi grew much better on the treated plastic. Instead of being released into the environment, the BPA was absorbed by the fungus as a source of energy. Even after 12 months, the substantially-decomposed treated plastic had released no BPA into its surroundings, as it was all consumed by the fungus. By contrast, the untreated plastic showed very little decomposition - this meant that it was still holding onto its BPA, and would release it into the environment when it eventually broke down.

Artham and Doble’s research was recently published in the journal Biomacromolecules, published by the American Chemical Society.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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2 Comments

Nice. How does this work on Bisphenol-AF, which is some 40x more toxic than BPA?

Stradric
14th May, 2010 @ 05:56 am PDT

A step towards clean environment.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
11th June, 2010 @ 04:28 pm PDT
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