Scientists find new system to detect paraben level in water bodies

The research is meant to help develop measures to correct the harmful effects of the organic compounds on the environment

By Ayushi Rai
Last Updated: Wednesday 06 June 2018

Personal care products containing parabens end up in water bodies with urban and hospital waste. Credit: Wikimedia CommonsWhile people know that parabens, which are a group of organic compounds used as preservatives in cosmetics and hygiene products, are harmful for human health, its impact on the environment is hardly discussed. Use of cosmetics with parabens could pose a risk of breast cancer in women and when these personal care products end up in water bodies with urban and hospital waste, they become a threat to corals and may cause hormonal disruptions in dolphins and other marine animals as well.

When people came to know of parabens’ negative impact on human health, a number of paraben-free products flooded the markets. But nobody still thought of the environment. Now, a research group at University of Cordoba has designed a method to detect pollutants in seawater. The project is aimed at identifying parabens and triclosan in water bodies to help develop measures to correct their harmful effects. Maria Teresa Garcia Valverde, one of the authors of the study, said, “This method is faster, more practical and more efficient.”

In collaboration with the University of the Balearic Islands, the research team focused on several substances used as preservatives in soap, lotion and deodorants that end up in the sea. Parabens and triclosan, in particular, adversely affect the marine ecosystem. They came up with a method that is based on nanotechnology and a system known as ‘Lab-on-Valve’. This new system has been recently published in Analytical Chemistry, a journal.

The research team added carbon-coated titanium dioxide nanotubes to the ‘Lab-on-Valve’ systems for paraben extraction at a low concentration. Till now, the usage of nano materials in the ‘Lab-on-Valve’ systems was not possible because of their characteristic of forming a cluster or lump in the liquid medium. However, the research team, led by Professor Marisol Cardenas, synthesised the nanoparticles that can be easily dispersed and were also compatible to the lab value system.

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