As water scarcity becomes an ever larger problem, Felipe de Barros, assistant professor at the University of Southern California, is working to find new methods of predicting pollution in groundwater. He aims in providing reliable predictions of how chemical pollutants in subsurface water has staggering implications for human health and sustainability. His research aims to create a model of subsurface flow and determine how chemicals move in subterranean conditions.
Engineers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom have been using the seemingly unconventional method of tracking glowing tampons in a water body to identify areas of pollution from wastewater. Often, tampons soak up the optical brighteners, chemicals added to detergents and other cleaners to enhance whites and bright colors - the same stuff that makes your white t-shirt glow in the black light of a bowling alley. The tampons then glow under ultraviolet light. Because the natural, untreated cotton in tampons readily absorbs the chemicals, they have the potential to be a convenient and inexpensive indicator of pollution in rivers and streams.