(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Fairmont Preparatory Academy

Opinion: Is nanotechnology a solution to water pollution?

Japan’s plan to dump radioactive water in the sea has been one of the hottest topics on the internet. In 2011, an earthquake knocked down three nuclear reactors at Fukushima, and since then, 1.3 trillion tons of seawater has been used to cool down these damaged reactor buildings.

Japan is running low on storage capacity, therefore, the government has decided to release the contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. According to Pakistani physicist Dr. Ah Nayyar, releasing radioactive water into the ocean could destroy marine life, but also cause cancer to our bodies while eating them. 

Although Japan’s plan to dump radioactive water is a shocking headline, it is only a small contributing factor to the world’s chemical pollution. Chemical pollution has always been a notable problem around the world. Even when we are using pesticides and fertilizers, the leftover nitrates and phosphates cause water pollution by flowing into nearby rivers and lakes. Moreover, industrial waste is sometimes dumped untreated into waters.

Chemicals such as mercury will react to bacteria within the water, producing methyl mercury. The mercury levels will slowly increase in fishes, and one day this could cause serious health problems in people such as headaches and dysarthria.

However, there are always more solutions than problems. In recent years, nanotechnology was introduced as a way of filtering underground water into drinkable water. Companies such as 10 Angstroms and 3D Systems provide equipment for this nanotechnology. Their new method utilizes nanoscopic materials such as nanotubes and alumina fibers for purification. For instance, carbon nanotube membranes are capable of removing water contaminants such as arsenic, bacteria, organic material, nitrates, salinity and viruses. There are several approaches to purification, yet most of them are still in research. 

Once this technology is fully developed, it would be able to provide safe drinking water on a global scale. Currently, our three main ways of secondary wastewater treatment are biofiltration, aeration, and oxidation ponds. However, these methods are expensive and time-consuming. In contrast, nanotechnology can filter better on a molecular level, but also be more efficient in cost and time.

But every coin has two sides; the negative aspects of nanotechnology are also apparent. One of the disadvantages is that in harsh environmental conditions, it would easily destroy the structure of nanosized catalysts, which might become secondary contaminations. 

Scientists and innovators have always tried to find an ultimate solution that will reduce pollution. Nanotechnology could be one of the technologies that would make a revolutionary change in our lives.

But now, there are still concerns and doubts about this new technology. It is important to protect the environment for us and the next generation.