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Biology Articles » Biotechnology » Blue Biotechnology » Could seaweed clean up DDT?
Why it is necessaryAlthough DDT is banned in most of the industrial world, it is one of the most effective anti-mosquito agents available. Twenty five countries, including South Africa, still use it in the fight against malaria, despite strong opposition from environmental groups. If DDT could be more quickly broken down after use, the overall health benefits to countries with big malaria problems could be enormous.
Why it worksThe initial breakdown of DDT depends on particular microbes that function best anaerobically (without oxygen). The researchers used waterlogged soil to encourage the anaerobic microbes. Seaweed is a good source of sodium, which in low concentrations "significantly enhances" the microbes' breakdown of DDT. Sodium disperses soil, thus exposing DDT to microbes; it also affects the amount of dissolved organic carbon in the soil, which in turn makes a difference to the way organisms access the contaminants. When too much seaweed is used, the dissolved carbon and excess sodium gets in the way of the process.
The authors suggest that the seaweed method "has potential" in accelerating DDT clean-up: "it would work best in small areas where DDT has been accidentally spilled or added to soil rather than being applied on a large scale, as the process has to be controlled and monitored."Society of Chemical Industry. April 2004.
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