LCD toxic trash: useful antibiotic?

Researchers look to recycle chemicals in LCD televisions to kill disease-causing microbes.

British researchers are doing some interesting things with that television you threw out last year. By you, I mean any one of the millions of humans who have pitched their TVs and other liquid crystal display gadgets into the garbage.

By separating the films of LCD screens, the scientists are taking polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) and turning it into a disinfectant. According to the researchers, the substance can kill harmful bacteria including strains of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

Andrew Hunt of the University of York says in a statement:

We can add significant value this waste. By heating then cooling the PVA and then dehydrating it with ethanol we can produce a high surface area mesoporous material that has great potential for use in biomedicine.

Now we have gone a step further by enhancing its anti-microbial properties through the addition of silver nanoparticles, with the result being that it can destroy bacterial infections.

Previous research of theirs has found that pure PVA might be useful in human tissue regeneration and possibly in treatments to transport medications to specific areas of the body.

They are now adding a dash of silver to the screen material, hoping to potentially make antibiotic cleaning solutions for hospital use. While silver nanoparticles have shown to have anti-microbial properties, whether they will be safe for use in health applications is unknown. The next move for the researchers is to see how effective their substance is compared to existing commercial compounds at warding off staph and e. coli infections. Then they'll need to obtain permissions to test the material in regard to human health.

Hunt will be presenting his team's research tomorrow at the Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Washington, DC.

And what to do with the rest of the toxins leaking from our hi-tech trash?  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2005, the computers, TVs, VCRs, monitors, cell phones and other electric items ditched by Americans amounted to almost 2 million tons. That's a whole lot of lead, mercury, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, and other dangerous substances. If only we could start upgrading these items as well.

Image: Wikipedia Commons
: Science Daily

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