Phenolic compounds a problem in industrialised countries
Clean drinking water is a diminishing natural resource in developing nations
and in many industrialised countries. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
has developed a simple and inexpensive test kit that detects phenolic
compounds in water. Sources of phenolic compounds found in drinking water
include industrial wastewaters, drug residues and pipes. Certain phenolic
compounds are toxic and some may even cause cancer.
The method developed by VTT is based on a chemical reaction. A small test
stick determines whether or not a water sample contains harmful phenolic
compounds. If so, the stick will change colour within a few minutes. No quick,
easy and inexpensive water quality test has been available until now. VTT's
test will be launched in 2 to 3 years.
High levels of phenolic compounds in water are a problem particularly in
industrialised countries, where an inexpensive test kit has market potential
not only in the industrial and agricultural sectors but in use by health
inspectors, water utilities, and possibly even consumers.
Markets for water quality test kits are also increasing in the developing
countries. Dwindling water resources, increasing water prices, inadequate
sewer systems and long distances between sample sites and laboratories
increase the demand for simple and inexpensive test methods which can be
applied on site.
Non-degradable, toxic and ecologically unsafe, phenolic compounds in
industrial wastewaters are among the most harmful. Chlorophenols, for example,
are carcinogenic and affect hepatic and renal function. In industrial
wastewaters, the concentration of phenolic compounds may be as high as several
hundreds of milligrams per litre. The cut-off value in VTT's test is currently
0.1 mg/l, but development of test precision continues.
Phenolic compounds are used as raw material in chemical industries for
producing polymers, phenolic resins, explosives, pigments and drugs. Phenols
can be found in the wastewaters of oil refineries and petrochemical, wood
processing, plastics, rubber, textile, coating and leather industries.
VTT and the University of Helsinki have developed water quality test kits in
collaboration with their industrial partners.
Image: The test turns red
to indicate that the sample contains phenol.