Advancements Made to Protect Nature From Dangerous Chemicals

The effects of climate change are worsening, with temperatures growing warmer and air and water pollution spreading. The harmful chemicals organizations use in their operations and emissions households generate from powering their appliances contribute to this.

Two main areas see advancements in their environmental efforts — the federal government and technology. Federal policies and technology breakthroughs have allowed everyone to work together to slow down the degradation of the environment.

Federal-Implemented Policies

The government has created regulations businesses and individuals must follow to use and dispose of chemicals properly. Agencies oversee their implementations to help ensure these policies will be followed to reduce pollution and create better waste management. Here are a few examples:

1. Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first issued the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements in 2018 but revised it in 2023. This rule targets organizations generating waste that harms the environment as part of their operations. The regulation consists of guidelines detailing the best practices and safer ways to handle and dispose of their waste, including chemical feedstocks, so it doesn’t compromise nature and people.

2. Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the CFATS. It’s a program aimed at facilities handling high-risk substances. The DHS recognizes some chemicals of interest can pose security risks and be used in situations like terrorist attacks, compromising people’s safety. The agency monitors facilities covered by this program to implement security plans to reduce the risk of chemical misuse and its impact on the environment.

3. Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

This law was passed in 2016 to strengthen and modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which deals with chemical waste disposal, such as lead-based paint, asbestos and radon.

The act authorizes the EPA to regulate old and new chemicals and evaluate their risk to the environment and people. In addition, they’re also responsible for making chemical information more accessible to the public and implementing responsible use of these substances in the 21st century.

Besides national regulations, some states also execute their own chemical treatment policies. For example, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in California has Proposition 65, requiring businesses to warn people of chemical exposure that can cause cancer, reproductive harm and congenital disabilities.

Technological Breakthroughs

Thanks to technology, environmental experts, policymakers and regulatory agencies can now accurately quantify the chemical contaminants in the soil, water, and atmosphere. Here are three impressive innovations in ecological protection.

1. Nanoremediation

Nanoremediation is a waste management method that uses nanoparticles to remove contaminants from the environment through a process called remediation. It’s commonly applied in soil and groundwater contaminated with heavy metals and petroleum chemicals released by medication manufacturers. Here are nanomaterial examples used in this technology:

  • Nanoscale zero-valent iron: It has high reactivity and can immobilize contaminants.
  • Carbon nanotubes: They have unique adsorption, allowing them to remediate organic and inorganic contaminants by attracting them to the surface.
  • Metallic and magnetic nanoparticles: These have unique metal-ion adsorption and a magnetic-like capability, separating the pollutants from the soil or water.

Nanoparticles have different characteristics, so experts first identify the best applicable material for remediation. Some can trigger a chemical reaction to accelerate the breakdown of pollutants, whereas other types can degrade them into harmless agents.

2. Bioremediation

Bioremediation is another efficient technique for removing toxins from a polluted environment. It’s similar to nano remediation, except it uses living microorganisms to degrade, immobilize, eradicate and detoxify various chemical wastes. The contaminated site is treated by directly applying aerobic and anaerobic bacteria or fungi to the area, or promoting their growth by adding nutrients to initiate the process.

Aerobic bacteria are microorganisms that need oxygen to survive. They’re often used to degrade pesticides, alkanes, hydrocarbons, and polyaromatic compounds to prevent them from seeping into water lines and entering households.

Anaerobic bacteria are microbes that can live without oxygen. They degrade or convert pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls and chlorinated aromatic compounds into less-toxic forms.

The level of success of bioremediation depends on the concentration of pollutants, their chemical nature, the environment’s overall properties and the availability of the microbes. Overall, it can be an effective alternative to detoxify the surroundings.

3. Chemical Sensors

These devices harness sensor technology to detect and measure the level of chemical pollution in the environment. Environmental scientists use them to quantify nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, industrial pollutants, pathogens and pesticides, and heavy metals in the water and soil.

They’re equipped with four types of sensors:

  • Chemical-reaction-based sensors: The device generates a calculable signal to determine toxicity concentration in the air, soil or water.
  • Gas sensors: These use metal oxides or polymers that show changes in electrical conductivity when exposed to gas pollutants.
  • Biosensors: They use enzymes or antibodies to spot microbial contamination in water lines.
  • Optical sensors: Changes in fluorescence, luminescence or absorbance in light can discern contaminants to find oil spills in water.

Chemical sensors detect early contamination, allowing experts to facilitate remediation promptly.

Environmental Solutions Are Progressing

The world is making positive strides to protect the environment by all means possible, from government laws moderating proper waste disposal to technological innovations offering alternative solutions to minimize chemical pollution. Awareness of planet protection is expanding, inspiring more people to do their part. Little effort contributes to massive positive change in the environment.

Author Bio

Jack Shaw is the senior writer for Modded, a men’s lifestyle publication. An avid outdoorsman and lover of nature, he’ll often find himself taking retreats out to explore his environment and encourages others to do the same. His writings have been featured on sites such as Duluth Pack, Tiny Buddha and more.

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