Artificial Mussels

Heavy Metals and Radionuclides - The Risk to Public Health!!

Heavy Metals and Radionuclides are substances that can have detrimental effects on human health and the environment. Exposure to these toxins may lead to various diseases, including organ damage and cancers. These toxic pollutants can accumulate in the body over time, posing long-term risks to human well-being.

Heavy metals

Radionuclides

Artificial Mussels: A Novel Monitoring Device for Heavy Metals and Radionuclides in Global Aquatic Environments

Heavy Metals and Radionuclides are substances that can have detrimental effects on human health and the environment. Exposure to these toxins may lead to various diseases, including organ damage and cancers. These toxic pollutants can accumulate in the body over time, posing long-term risks to human well-being.

Bioaccumulation. Not only us, but the next generation!!

While heavy metals and radionuclides may exist in low environmental concentrations, their ability to bioaccumulate in the food web is a significant concern. These toxins can accumulate in organisms a different trophic levels, leading to a magnification of their concentration as they move up the food chain. As a result, consuming contaminated food can expose us to potentially fatal amounts of these toxins. Furthermore, the effects are not limited to our generation; they can be passed on to future generations through the food we consume.

The Global Bottleneck of monitoring heavy metals and radionuclides

It is crucial to monitor and mitigate the presence of heavy metals and radionuclides to safeguard public health and ensure the sustainability of our ecosystems.

However, current monitoring of metals and radionuclides involves frequent sampling of a large volume of water followed by tedious concentration procedures, often making it impractical.

Sediment sampling encountered significant interference due to the organic matters presence in the sediment samples, which cannot be illuminated.

Natural Mussels are used as Bioindicators for monitoring heavy metals, but...

Natural Mussels have been used as bioindicator since 1970s. However, their application is limited by their natural distribution, physical and biological factors.

  1. Seasonal and geographical variations: The concentration of heavy metals in mussels can vary depending on the season, location, and environmental conditions. This makes it challenging to obtain consistent and standardized data throughout different sampling periods and geographical areas.

  2. Species-specific differences: Different mussel species may have varying abilities to accumulate and tolerate certain heavy metals. Using a single species as a bioindicator may not provide a comprehensive understanding of pollution levels across diverse ecosystems.

  3. Depuration rates: Once mussels are removed from contaminated waters, they can depurate or eliminate accumulated heavy metals over time. This depuration process can affect the accuracy of data interpretation, as it introduces uncertainties regarding the actual exposure levels.

  4. Limited spatial coverage: Deploying live mussels for monitoring purposes is often resource-intensive and impractical to cover large areas comprehensively. This limitation restricts the ability to obtain a holistic picture of pollution levels on a global scale.

  5. Ethical considerations: Using live mussels in monitoring programs raises ethical concerns, as it involves the collection and potential harm to living organisms. Finding alternative methods that minimize harm to marine life while still providing accurate data is essential for sustainable monitoring practices.

 

Inspired by the nature

Inspired by the natural mussels, which filter and accumulate the toxins in their bodies, NerOcean developed a new class of universal metal-chelating materials that bind various metals concurrently.

Artificial Mussel: A Novel Monitoring Device for Heavy Metals and Radionuclides in Global Aquatic Environments

Artificial Mussel (AM) is a passive sampling device specifically invented for monitoring metals/radionuclides in freshwater, marine water and waterwater. It consists of a newly synthesized chelating complex suspended in artificial seawater within a Perspex tubing enclosed with semi-permeable gel at both ends.

Artificial Mussels overcome the problems and limitations presented by existing metal/radionuclides monitoring methods using water, sediment, and mussels. This low-cost monitoring device (ca. US$1.5 each) provides a new and highly promising alternative for environmental monitoring of metals and radionuclides with zero-energy input, is easy to use, and for the first time, provides a standardized tool for monitoring heavy metals and radionuclides in different aquatic environments globally.

At present, we are collaborating with Hong Kong Government departments, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (Greece), Xiamen University (China) and Seoul National University (South Korea) for field monitoring of radionuclides and metals using our Artificial Mussels. Collaborating with the State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution, arrangements have been made to deploy Artificial Mussels in 50 countries worldwide by 2025 through the 10-year “Global Estuaries Monitoring (GEM) Programme”, endorsed by the United Nations.

Achievement

Artificial Mussel has won the silver medal in Inventions Geneva 2022.