Originally published April 19 2015
Scientists are now sifting through human poo to find precious gold particles
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) Experts with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Virginia say we could be wasting millions of dollars by failing to extract and utilize precious heavy metals that are excreted through human poo. Speaking at the 249th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), scientists say humans excrete an array of heavy metals through their poo such as silver, platinum and gold.
A recent analysis of human biosolids found that there could potentially be about $13 million worth of precious metals found in the poo of just 1 million Americans, according to a March 24 report by the Inquisitor.
The 249th ACS National Meeting and Exposition, which took place in Denver, Colorado in late March, explores the overarching multidisciplinary theme of Chemistry of Natural Resources. At the event, Kathleen Smith, a USGS geologist explained how heavy metals find their way into waste through beauty products, detergents and even odor-resistant clothing such as socks.
Heavy metals found in beauty products, detergents and other household products ending up in the environment, polluting the air, soil and water
Smith believes there are two good reasons to extract the metals from human waste.
"If you can get rid of some of the nuisance metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable metals and other elements, that's a win-win," Smith said.
"There are metals everywhere," she said, adding that they're "in your hair care products, detergents, even nanoparticles that are put in socks to prevent bad odors."
Like pharmaceuticals and microplastics, minute amounts of heavy metals are not filtered out through wastewater sewage treatment plants, therefore ending up in the environment where they pollute the air, soil and water.
After undergoing a series of physical, biological and chemical processes at U.S. wastewater treatment plants, the end products are treated water and biosolids. Approximately 7 million tons of biosolids are extracted from US wastewater facilities each year, and about 50 percent of that is used as fertilizer on fields and forests, while the other half is incinerated or sent to landfills, the scientists wrote in a press release.
In their recent study, USGS geologists looked at removing some regulated metals from the biosolids that limit their use for land application.
Scientists propose collecting valuable metals from human waste and making a profit off them by selling them to be used in products such as cell phones and computers
"In the other part of the project, we're interested in collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including some of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper that are in cell phones, computers and alloys," Smith said.
Researchers identified microscopic-sized metal particles in poo using a scanning electron microscope. Smith says they hope to copy the mining industry's method of using chemicals called leachates, which miners use to extract metals out of rock.
"While some of these leachates have a bad reputation for damaging ecosystems when they leak or spill into the environment, Smith says that in a controlled setting, they could safely be used to recover metals in treated solid waste," the press release said.
That belief is debatable, however, as some research suggests that leachates can be difficult to control. Studies found that that leachates seeping from landfills may contaminate the groundwater beneath, creating what's known as a "plume." Leachate plumes sometimes extend hundreds of meters away from landfills, contaminating groundwater along the way.
"Thus, the fate and transport of leachate in the environment, from both old and modern landfills, is a potentially serious environmental problem," according to the USGS.
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