Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Arsenic-Eating Bacteria May Clean Mines and Save Lives

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Arsenic-Eating Bacteria May Clean Mines and Save Lives

Article excerpt

A Melbourne research group, led by microbiologist Dr. Joanne Santini of La Trobe University, is working out how to use newly discovered bacteria to clean up contaminated wastewater and drinking water.

"We hope the bacteria will one clay be used in bioremediation. It is theoretically cheaper and safer to use bacteria to clean up an environmental mess than it is to use dangerous and expensive chemical methods that employ chlorine or hydrogen peroxide," Dr. Santini said.

Dr. Santini and her students are studying 13 rare bacteria that were isolated from gold mines in the Northern Territory and Bendigo, Victoria--the only lab in the world to do so.

Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and in this form is harmless. But when exposed to air and water, it becomes soluble and toxic to plants, animals, and humans.

Mining and boring rock for drinking wells can expose the rock-bound arsenic to air and water and turn it into two toxic forms: arsenate and arsenite. Arsenate is easy and safe to get rid of. But arsenite is not, and it is this form Dr. Santini hopes to remove with arsenite-eating bacteria on a mass scale. …

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