Rapid pesticide detection tool for cleaner water

Thursday, 12 January, 2012

A rapid screening tool developed by an RMIT University doctoral researcher could enable the instant detection of pesticide residues in Australia’s water catchments.

Dr David Beale investigated the development of a portable instrument for detecting the presence of commonly used pesticides in water as part of his PhD research in RMIT’s School of Applied Sciences.

The method he developed enables the rapid screening of bulk waters using chemiluminescence - a highly sensitive technique that allows the detection of minute quantities of an organic compound.

“With diminishing water reserves and increasing pesticide use, our waterways are at growing risk of contamination,” Dr Beale said.

“Typical pesticide monitoring involves collecting samples on site then taking them back to a laboratory for analysis, a process that can take several days.

“By instantly identifying the presence of specific pesticide residues, this new method would enable water utilities to find out on the spot if a water catchment is contaminated.

“With future development, I hope the tool could enable water utilities to monitor their catchments in-situ and in real time for a variety of pesticide classes.”

The method developed by Dr Beale as part of his PhD can give an on-the-spot indicative reading identifying the presence of triazines, triazinone and selected organophosphates in water samples, with confirmation performed by traditional analytical techniques in a laboratory.

Sensitive enough to detect minute traces of pesticide residues under the maximum levels set by Australian guidelines for safe drinking water, the method could be easily incorporated into a portable field instrument, which is the basis of further research at RMIT.

“I hope my work could enable water utilities to catch any contamination earlier, as well as boosting the amount of testing conducted within our water catchments,” Dr Beale said.

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