Mercury is one of the most toxic elements that can cause long-term health damage, yet separating it from water can be challenging. According to the US-EPA, the decreased mercury emissions following the effluent limit standards could result in about 130,000 fewer asthma attacks, 4,700 fewer heart attacks, and 11,000 fewer premature deaths each year.
With this, Professor Abdennour Abbas of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences (CFANS) and his team created an absorbent sponge
that can remove mercury from the contaminated water source (tap, lake and industrial wastewater) in less than 5 seconds (or around 5 minutes for industrial wastewater)! This, then, converts into a non-toxic complex to be easily disposed in a landfill after usage. Need I say more? It also kills bacterial and fungal microbes.
“Think of it this way: If Como Lake was contaminated with mercury at the EPA limit, the sponge needed to remove all of the mercury would be the size of a basketball,” as University of Minnesota puts it
This advancement can help different states as the mercury contamination more specifically on lake waters results in mercury accumulation in fish. For instance, in Minnesota, a number of fish species are not advised to be consumed more than once a week or even once a month. Moreover, 10 percent of tested newborns in Minnesota's North Shore were found to have mercury concentrations that’s above the EPA dose limit for methylmercury (the form of mercury found in fish).
Aside from these improvements in air and water quality as well as in aquatic life and public health, the new innovation can influence new regulations, which in turn determine the value of the market. The 2015 EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulation will probably cost the industry about $9.6 billion annually in 2020. The novel technology, however, has the potential to bring this cost down.