Tampons found to be brilliant pollution detectors under UV lights

1 Apr 2015

A team from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering is testing tampons, with their ultra-absorbent properties, as sewage detectors using chemicals and ultra-violet (UV) light.

The team has been putting the sanitary devices through their paces and have now proven their theory that with a certain amount of tweaking, tampons can be turned into cheap devices that will allow water analysts to easily determine whether pollutants is present in fresh water.

According to Wired, the key to the tampon’s success as a monitoring device is down to the fact it is made with un-treated ultra-absorbent cotton which allows for un-compromised scientific readings and which have now been detailed in the team’s research paper published online.

Absorbs the glowing, harmful chemicals

The reasoning for the team to take on this project was to see whether they could be used to monitor 16 water outlets in their home city of Sheffield that run into the area’s rivers and streams and identify what are the biggest polluters in the household.

All that is required to analyse the tampons and see whether they have been in contact with harmful chemicals is with the help of a UV light that will make the sanitary devices glow due to the optical brightening chemicals that are found in many common household detergents.

It is believed they can be used at a water outlet for up to 30 days before their effectiveness wears off which still makes them ideal when the outlets are undergoing short-term monitoring.

The team admit however, that it only currently offers ‘limited validation’ and calls on further research to see how effective they could be on a grander scale.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic