Something fishy!

ImageWell this week didn’t start as I wanted but did end on some positive notes…the Boston bombing…still hard to believe how can anyone one plan to destroy the peaceful event such as a marathon race??? Marathon race is a symbol of determination. Runners put years of training and hard work to prepare for a marathon…and it was so sad to see some of them may not run again! So sad… On the other hand such event also reinforces our belief in good…I salute the 75 year old runner who insisted on finishing his race despite the bombing…Long live that spirit!

But life must go on…so back to biomimetics! Only two weeks left for our final project presentation. We need to put more efforts to put things in order. Today I want share something I came to know recently and is stuck in my mind. I want to draw your attention to a strange phenomenon.  When we were discussing about the ideas for our project we started with three ideas: aquaponics, desalination and filtration system to filter out estrogens (main component in birth control pills!) from tertiary sewage water system.

You may wonder why we care about filtration of estrogen from sewage water system. The reason is hard to believe but it’s a fact! ImageThese chemical compounds are causing feminization of male fishes thus disturbing the sex ratio of fish and other aquatic animals! How does this happen??? Birth control pills are the most common contraceptive method around the world. The main ingredient of these pills are estrogen and progesterone.

ImageThese chemical compounds are added to the sewage water through human waste. Even though sewage water treatment plant are able to filter out big impurities but it fails to get rid of the fine chemicals such as estrogen. This filtered sewage water is then drained into rivers. The rivers, ponds are the natural habitats of the fish and the increased concentration of these chemicals are causing imbalance in the sex ratio of the fishes. Not only birth control pills but also the pharmaceutical waste that is dumped directly in the rivers is also responsible for this phenomenon! So what should we do about this? Do we have authority to disturb the natural balance???

Mother Nature has its ways to clean water in ponds. If you observe carefully, rock in the ponds are covered with slippery coating of fungus, algae and living organisms. These slippery coatings are responsible to maintain the ‘hygiene’ of the pond water.  They not only keep the pond clean but also provide food to the fishes and other small animals.  Research has shown that the harmful chemicals from the pharmaceutical waste are impacting these slippery rock systems. Scientist are currently studying various ways to maximize the removal of estrogen from the sewage water.

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