Sunday, January 09, 2005
Good News If You Don't Like Toxic Waste
Finally, the vision promised long ago by scientists the world over has come to fruition: bacteria are eating our toxic waste.
Apparently the world's new best friend, Dehalococcoides ethenogenes Strain 195 (its friends call it Ethel 195 for short) breaks down perchloroethylene, a chlorinated solvent used for dry cleaning; trichloroethylene, used to clean metal parts; chlorobenzenes, used to produce the pesticide DDT; and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, compounds that were once used as coolants and lubricants in transformers. (Actually, no one calls it Ethel 195 except for me.)
Where did this incredible bacteria come from? Cornell professor of microbiology Stephen Zinder, who named the bacteria after it was found in a sewage treatment plant, says that Ethel is "able to adapt and to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves." In plain language, that means that it has developed a taste for our waste. Ethel is now being used at 17 polluted sites in 10 states.
So to all those who suggest that we are damaging our planet to the point when it will not be able to maintain itself, I say "nuts to you"; the planet will always be a home to those bacteria that can adapt sufficiently to eat the stuff left over after total catastrophic nuclear devastation.