AUB researchers use the power of the sun to neutralize drugs in drinking water (May 2017)When we think of water pollution we often think of the run off from large chemical companies, massive oil spills, or perhaps the presence of bacteria that will make us ill. However, the drugs we each take to relieve every day aches and pains are finding their way into the water supply and into our drinking water in ever-greater concentrations. When we take a pill not all the drug is absorbed into our body; some passes through us and is flushed down the toilet. Without thinking many of us also dispose of unused medicines by washing them down the drain. Trace pharmaceuticals are now found throughout the world in surface water, ground water, and in our coastal seawater.The need to improve our understanding, behavior, and the processes required to purify our water for drinking has never been more urgent. In a recent article appearing in Science of The Total Environment journal, a team of researchers at AUB: Dr. George Ayoub, a civil engineer; Dr. Mahmoud Al-Hindi, a chemical engineer; Dr. Antoine Ghauch, a chemist; and Abbas Baalbaki a graduate student in the environmental technology program, report their findings on the fate of five common chemically distinct pharmaceuticals that might be present in the water that you think of as clean. Because most pharmaceuticals are designed to be thermally stable and they are known to be light sensitive, experiments to discern the effects of light, heat, and the combined effect of light and heat on each of the drugs were under taken. Ibuprofen, diclofenac, carbamazepine, ampicillin, and naproxen were carefully studied as they passed through the distillation process of a low cost solar still. The experiments were set up on the roof of the CCC-scientific research building at AUB. Three environment factors were monitored throughout this study, namely, temperature, solar radiation intensity, and ultraviolet radiation intensity. The results indicated that solar stills are highly effective in removing several of the pharmaceuticals. Three of the pharmaceuticals tested, (ibuprofen, carbamazepine, and naproxen) required the effect of light and temperature combined to degrade significantly. But the results are not simple… some of the byproducts, after exposure to direct sunlight, were transferred to the distilled water. Naproxen resulted in an array of up to ten different unidentified byproducts some of which may be more toxic than their parent compound. There is obviously more work to be done to ensure that we have clean, safe drinking water. Working together AUB chemical engineers, chemists, and civil engineers are doing the vital research required to meet the growing challenges of modern life. AUB Research uncovers hidden danger in e-cigarette flavors (November 2016)
A recent laboratory study at the American University of Beirut (AUB) has shown some additives used to flavor the liquids for electronic cigarette becomeblished in the peer review journal Tobacco Control authored by members of the Center for the Study of Tobaccblished in the peer review journal Tobacco Control authored by members of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products (CSTP) at AUB, including masters' student Sarah Soussy who wrote her thesis on the subject, under supervision of Dr. Najat Saliba, associate professor in analytical chemistry.
Sou ssy explained that manufacturers often claim the flavor-enhancing additives in e-cigarette liquids are safe because they are commonly used in food production. "However, this argument is misleading because food additives are meant for ingestion, not inhalation, and because they can be transformed chemically in the heated element of the electronic cigarette," she said.
For example, saccharides, used to impart a sweet flavor, decompose into furan compounds-which are toxic-in e-cigarettes.
The use of such additives has been widely banned in conventional cigarettes, but their presence is a characteristic of the countless different flavors of e-cigarette liquids. Just as with the inclusion of fruit and candy flavors in water-pipe tobacco, the flavors are controversial as it is feared they encourage non-smokers to use them, especially children.
The AUB study found that furan compounds were positively correlated with the concentration of the sweeteners in the liquid and the electrical power of the electronic cigarette.
Per-puff levels of furan compounds in electronic cigarettes were found to be comparable to those in conventional cigarettes.
CSTP's work is part of an ongoing series of studies at AUB funded by the US Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health and conducted under the leadership of the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture Professor Alan Shihadeh and Professor Najat Saliba. The use of Membrane Biotechnology to treat leachate in landfills (September 2016)Landfills remain an important element of most solid waste management schemes around the world, even in areas with good recycling, reuse, and reduction practices. A byproduct of landfills is a toxic liquid known as leachate that often penetrates into the underground water sources. This problem is particularly acute when the landfill waste contains a high percentage of food waste as is the case in Lebanon.