Tampons provide a Way to Detect Sewage Leaks

Tampons provide a Way to Detect Sewage Leaks

Researchers have devised a new way to detect sewage leaks. They placed tampons in 16 surface water sewers and retrieved them after 3 days. After this, they tested them under UV light. The research team successfully detected grey water contamination. They also determined a positive and negative result for clean water.

The researchers explained that the natural, untreated cotton in tampons readily absorbs chemical commonly used in toilet paper, laundry detergents and shampoos. Known as optical brighteners, these chemicals enhance whites and brighten colors.

Professor David Lerner who led the study said, “The main difficulty with detecting sewage pollution by searching for optical brighteners is finding cotton that does not already contain these chemicals”. This is the reason why tampons provide a brilliant solution. The new method is cheap and works effectively.

The researchers dipped a tampon into a solution containing 0.01ml of detergent per liter of water. After five seconds, they found that the optical brighteners were easy to identify and remained visible for the next 30 days.

The researchers then suspended tampons for three days in sixteen surface water outlets running into streams and rivers in Sheffield. They then tested them under UV light and found that the tampons glowed and confirmed the presence of optical brighteners, and therefore sewage pollution.