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Swedish Student turns Toxic Textile Factory Effluent into Clean Water

Swedish student Maria Jonstrup has apparently weaved a solution to the harm created by toxic chemicals used in garment industry. Hormone-disrupting substances and their ilk continue to find their way into waterways and drinking water supplies in China, India, Bangladesh and some other countries. Maria, a doctoral student in biotechnology at Lund University in Sweden, might hold the key to an environmentally-friendly purification process that leaves only clean water behind.

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For her doctoral thesis, Maria experimented with fungal enzymes and bacteria from the drains at textile wastewater treatment plants. Although purification techniques generally fall into either the biological or chemical category, it was by combining the two that Jonstrup made a breakthrough.

First, microorganisms break down the dyes in a reactor. However, to be certain that the water is completely purified, she also used some chemicals. She found that small amounts of iron and hydrogen peroxide, in combination with UV light, break down even the most difficult structures.

“We have already taken samples and performed tests at a factory in India,” she says. “Because clothing manufacture has received quite a bad reputation over recent years, it can otherwise be quite difficult to gain access to the factories.”

Soon, two Master’s students will be taking over the baton. They will spend a year testing the technique in larger volumes of water, which will more closely reflect the conditions in real textile factories. Their challenge will be to study how the UV light in the chemical stage could be replaced with normal sunlight. Maria Jonstrup will be their supervisor.

Textile dying is one of the most environmentally hazardous aspects of the textile industry and, with Maria’s expertise, the bad marks will be washed off the industry, let us hope.

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