These New Grasses Eliminate Toxic Effects Of Explosives And Bombs

Posted: Nov 25 2016, 5:29am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

These New Grasses Eliminate Toxic Effects of Explosives and Bombs
University of Washington engineers and colleagues have developed two types of transgenic grass species that can eliminate RDX, a toxic compound widely used in explosives that contaminates military bases, battlegrounds and some drinking water wells. Credit: Dennis Wise/University of Washington
  • How New Grasses Eliminate Toxic Effects of Explosive Materials and Bombs
 

According to research funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, new grasses eliminate the toxic effects of military explosions.

During military training fire practice involves explosions due to bombs or shells. The purpose of these explosions is to test new weapons by firing over tanks or model buildings.  

But, there are certain side effects of military training including toxic elements which develop in the atmosphere thereby creating pollution.  Vast area of military bases gets polluted and a huge amount of money is spent on the cleanup process that goes up to $165 billion.

Research was conducted by UW engineers who developed new grass that is able to detoxify atmosphere.  The research results got published online in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

The researchers at University of Washington and University of Yorkshire say that new grass removes toxic effects by eliminating RDX, an element that is used in weapons. RDX is not new. Instead it has a long history including usage in World War II.

University of Washington engineers discovered bacteria with genes which eat RDX thus making it harmless. They used those genes in creating new grass species named

Switchgrass and Creeping Bentgrass.  The grass was grown in toxic soil with RDX, and after growth it completely removed RDX. This grass took only two weeks or less to grow. The grass stems did not get any toxic elements.

According to Stuart Strand, UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and senior author, this is the most economical way to reduce pollution caused by weapons.

Stuart’s lab involves experiments in which some animal genes are taken which play a vital role in eliminating toxic elements. According to engineers, planting this grass on a military base could eliminate the harmful effects of any explosions and the ground water won’t get contaminated either.

RDX is so harmful that its presence in water or in atmosphere can damage human organs. Seizures disease are also caused by RDX as declared by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.

Although, TNT is also harmful but at least it stays in the soil, whereas RDX gets dissolved in water thereby contaminating it. So, while it rains the contaminated water spreads everywhere causing severe health issues. Sometime, RDX also gets into drinking water which further harms our bodies.

Wild grass is also helpful in removing toxic elements, but it only weakens RDX that redevelops after the grass is dried. According to UW Engineers these bacteria don’t work alone as they need some source to kill RDX, so the grass acts as food containing bacteria that removes RDX.

The researchers found that new grass grows faster than wild grass because it uses nitrogen in RDX as food source.  Though, lots of more experiments are required to check the grass’s effects on military bases in different conditions, the researchers are optimistic about the results and have found the new grass very beneficial in eliminating toxic elements

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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