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Novel Combination of Techniques Detects Heavy Metals in Food and Water

Novel Combination of Techniques Detects Heavy Metals in Food and Water

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  • Novel technique to simultaneously test heavy metals found in vegetables and drinking water
  • Clay-based adsorbent with cloud point extraction is used to analyze trace metals
  • Equipment easily available in developing countries with fast and accurate measurement
  • Low concentration of certain heavy metals can lead to diseases such as cancer

Heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium can be detected in vegetables and water by using a new efficient and more sensitive method, according to researchers at University of Johannesburg.

The instrumentation is readily available in developing countries, and multiple metals can be detected at the same time.

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Novel Combination of Techniques Detects Heavy Metals in Food and Water

What are the New Techniques used to Detect Heavy Metals?
Trace metals such as lead, arsenic, thallium, and cadmium are considered toxic even at a low concentration. They are recognized as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US National Toxicology Program (NTP).

The researchers combined two techniques that result in a simple, sensitive, and fast analysis. The method is also environmentally friendly as it does not introduce secondary pollution.

Previous studies have used similar methods for the analysis of organic pollutants.

The researchers combined a clay-based adsorbent with a cloud point extraction method to analysis multiple trace metals present in vegetables and water.

What are the Equipment's used for the Analysis?

Solid vegetables are first converted into a liquid, to analyze trace metals using a suitable analytical instrument.

Direct and simultaneous analysis can analyze more vegetable samples quickly at the same time.

To preconcentrate samples, ultra-sound assisted cloud-point extraction and dispersive micro-solid phase extraction are used.

The samples are then analyzed with inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry.

The equipment the researchers used was a few years old. However, samples are analyzed in about 5 hours.

Why are Analytical Chemistry Techniques Crucial for the Analysis?

Analytical chemistry techniques are crucial to identify trace metals in food and water.

Dr. Luthando Nyaba, the co-author of the study, compared analytical chemistry techniques to an app on mobile phones that evolves.

"Analytical chemists are like software developers, making updates to an existing method to make them compliant with new analytical chemistry principles." "In this case, one of our goals was to significantly reduce the amounts of hazardous solvents traditionally used in testing for trace metals," says Nyaba.

Why is it Hard to Detect Trace Metals in Food and Water?

Unwanted trace metals in food and water seriously affect human health. Monitoring these trace metals can really challenge a laboratory.

The trace metals occur in 'too low doses' for the labs to directly measure them in foods. The equipment is not generally designed to detect such low concentrations.

Sophisticated methods and expensive equipment are most needed to detect these low concentration trace metals.

Vegetables are also complex to analyze chemical elements accurately. This leads to a long and time-consuming process.

It is tough to detect toxic metals in vegetables as it is a slow and expensive process which requires highly qualified scientists.

Metals in limit is a good thing

Consumption of vegetables and water is essential to stay healthy. High-quality vegetables also contain many micronutrients that are required by the body.

High doses of certain metals may result in deadly diseases and health conditions like cancer. However, the low concentration of a few metals can also make people extremely ill within a couple of days or weeks.

It is important to monitor the level of metals in vegetables and water. It can make a difference for a healthy life.

Metals are found everywhere

Unwanted metals and heavy metal pollution affect drinking water and food crops globally.

Certain agricultural fertilizers also affect crops.

Toxic metals accumulated in the human body, plants and animals and they result in health problems. The metals cannot be removed, and thus the problems can only be managed and not cured.

Many agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO), International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) publish various lists of known human carcinogens and levels of metals in food and water that are permissible.

In summary, the research results can improve the quality of food and water available for consumption and prevent harmful health effects.

Source: Medindia

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