Personally, we use thousands of chemicals in our homes, and few people think about whether they are harmful to the environment.
We often consider buying a "green" detergent to wash our clothes, but the simple act of washing hair and conditioning hair, even if it is a green product, it caused more than 30 chemicals to be rushed into our sewers.
Despite our best efforts in the supermarket, our wastewater treatment system is well designed to remove most of the chemicals as most of them are biodegradable.
However, many household chemicals are difficult to remove and are eventually discharged into our coastal environment and waterways.
In the past, dilution was the solution to dealing with these long-term problems.
A living chemical that does not break down.
But with the increase in population and non-
Coastal communities, dilution is not the solution of choice.
Regulations on emissions from our wastewater system mean that any chemical that is not degraded will be at a very low level, but many chemicals will remain in the sediment, even at a lower concentration
This includes being toxic to fish living in sediment and binding to hormone receptors in fish.
Therefore, which chemicals can cause problems and which are problems in our daily life, these chemicals will introduce a variety of chemicals in our wastewater system.
The most common are surface active substances and soap related to simple cleaners and detergents.
Choosing highly biodegradable "green" detergents is a good start in any family as they are easily broken down in the environment, but this is just the starting point to clean up the environmental conscience.
We also need to consider drugs and their metabolites (
Decomposition products of these drugs)
Disinfectant, skin care products, deodorant, spices, flame retardant, pesticide, plasticizer (
The chemicals we add to the plastic make them easier to form).
For some of them, there is no "green" option, use is a medical necessity, not a social choice.
Around Australia, and even the world, about 70 chemicals are regularly entering the environment (recalcitrants).
Some of them are toxic and form a group called "a worrying chemical.
All wastewater is treated before it is discharged into the environment, but in order to reduce the impact of these chemicals, advanced treatment is now becoming more and more common, although this is not available to all communities.
The "source" control or stop the input of the waste collection system is still the best option.
However, some chemicals have become ubiquitous for our society, and additional wastewater treatment may be the only solution.
The entry of some problematic chemicals into our waterways can be avoided, or their use can be greatly reduced.
Examples include: there are chemicals like this, these are just a few examples.
Our research looks at how these chemicals can be removed from water.
The wastewater treatment system relies on the fact that the molecules are biodegradable or removed in the treatment.
If molecules are not removed by these methods, there is a tendency for environmental emissions.
Typical addition treatments include ozone treatment that destroys or breaks molecules by oxidation and/or by using physical barriers such as reverse osmosis filtration membrane
The use of a combination of biodegradable, removal, oxidation and filtration is very effective and has proven to break the cycle of contamination, with the exception of a very small number of molecules.
These molecules that still pass are very problematic, and this is a problem if they should not be subject to more stringent regulation.
Not because they are more toxic than others, but because they are difficult to remove.
Interestingly, these are usually perfumes and biocides we use every day, not the detergents and medicines you might expect.
Turning to advanced water treatment as the norm, not the exception, seems to be the only way out if we don't want to stop using spray disinfectants, pesticides and perfumes.