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Liquid Gold: Human Urine can be Organic alternative to chemical fertilisers, say Researchers at Kalyani University

An added advantage is that its use would reduce eutrophication -- the process where fertiliser washed off the land cause damaging blooms of plankton in rivers and lakes

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Fertilizers. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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Bengaluru, August 29, 2016: Convinced about its medicinal values, Indian scientists had taken a patent on cow urine in 2002. Now, researchers at the International Centre for Ecological Engineering of Kalyani University near Kolkata report that human urine can be used as safe fertiliser “after eight months of storage under closed conditions.”

Urine contains the essential plant nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium — besides some growth-promoting agents like amino acids, glucose and vitamins, says the report by Bara Bihari Jana and his colleagues published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology.

On an average, each person excretes almost six kilos of pure plant nutrients via urine, says the report. “The amount of human urine generated daily in a highly-populated country like India can be an important resource if it is managed properly as liquid fertiliser.”

Representational Image of Farming. Image Source: Wikimedia commons.
Representational Image of Farming. Image Source: Wikimedia commons.

Jana’s team had been working for over a decade on the project to test human urine as a replacement for chemical fertiliser. “Earlier we have examined the fertiliser value of human urine for the production of fish food,” he told IANS.

In recent years, human urine as liquid fertiliser is getting attention in Europe and in some Scandinavian countries in view of the promotion of organic farming, says the report.

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The possible presence of disease-causing pathogens in urine had raised some questions. Though storage has been advocated by others for inactivation of bacteria in urine, there has been no study so far to examine this aspect under tropical conditions.

Jana says his latest study aimed at examining the pattern of changes in the counts of coliform bacteria as well as physico-chemical characteristics of human urine during different days of storage under closed conditions in order to identify the optimal storage period of human urine for use as safe fertiliser. The urine for the study was collected from students in the university.

According to the report, the study found that human urine during the storage period “undergoes microbiological and associated chemical changes and becomes highly alkaline”, resulting in death of pathogenic bacteria.

Human Urine sample. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Human Urine sample. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

“We observed that after 253 days of storage under closed condition, the coliform counts were reduced significantly and remained within the safe limit,” the report said.

According to the author, human urine is cheaper and more environment-friendly because hazardous chemical compounds or heavy metals such as cadmium are generally absent or low in human urine compared to commercially available fertiliser.

An added advantage is that its use would reduce eutrophication — the process where fertiliser washed off the land cause damaging blooms of plankton in rivers and lakes.

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“With the results of the present study, it may be concluded that human urine can be used as low-risk fertiliser after its storage for 253 days under prescribed conditions,” the report said. “Further research and extension activities of this work is necessary,” Jana added. “This can be done through NGOs, self-help groups, etc.”

But is the scheme workable?

Jana believes so. “Human urine may be collected daily in community toilets at airports, railway stations, market places, schools, colleges, etc., and stored in containers labelled with the date of collection,” he says.

“The government’s current campaign against open defecation and its plans to provide toilets in each village provides the opportunity to implement the concept by making provision in the toilets for collection of urine and faeces in separate chambers.”

Would it be practical to truck large volumes of urine around for use in agricultural fields across the country? The answer is “yes”, according to the report.

“About 80 per cent of the nutrients contained in human urine can be concentrated in 25 per cent of the original volume by freezing (the urine) which would facilitate transport and storage.” (IANS)

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Microplastics Found In 100 Percent Of Humans Studied: Research

Plastic is apparently showing up in all of us

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Microplastics, plastic
Plastic bottles and other plastics, including a mop, lie washed up on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britian. VOA

In the first study of its kind, Austrian researchers have tracked the movement of microplastics into human beings. The results show that the plastic that is a ubiquitous element of human life is now also a constant element in the human body.

The research was presented at this week at UEG Week in Vienna, Austria, the largest gastroenterology meeting in Europe.

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Two Austrian researchers, Dr. Philipp Schwabl from the Medical University of Vienna, and Dr. Bettina Liebmann, from the Environment Agency Austria, studied participants from countries including Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the UK and Austria.

Microplastics are particles of plastic less than 5 mm in size. They are often tiny plastic beads that are put in cosmetic products. A few nations, including the U.S., the UK and South Korea, have banned microbeads. But microplastics also are created when larger pieces of plastic break down over time, and plastic in general is everywhere. The U.N. estimates that about 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. And the World Economic Forum estimated that Americans threw away over 33 million metric tons of plastic in 2014.

Microplastics
Courtesy – Philipp Schwabl. VOA

But this study, which was small, suggests that plastic, whether it’s bad for us or not, is already in all of us.

Study participants were asked to keep a food diary for seven days prior to taking part in the test. Then they turned over stool samples to the researchers who then looked for microplastics.

And they found them. Every single stool sample tested positive for the presence of microplastic, and up to nine different plastic types were identified.

Where is the plastic coming from? In the cases of this study, the plastic that showed up in people is associated with eating plastic wrapped foods, and drinking from plastic bottles. But most of the participants also ate fish, so Schwabl says that right now, “no exact conclusion on plastic origin can be made” on exactly where the plastic is coming from. Future studies should narrow that down.

Microplastics
Courtesy – Philipp Schwabl. VOA

What is it doing to us?

So is all that plastic making us sick? Schwabl says, for now, there are no definitive studies that suggest a danger to humans. But he says that in “animal studies, it has been shown that microplastics may cause intestinal damage, remodeling of the intestinal villi, distortion of iron absorption and hepatic stress.”

And the concern is “what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases,” Schwabl says. “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver.”

Also Read: A Data Project to Predict Human Trafficking Before It Occurs By Corporate Giants

He was surprised, he says, to find that plastic is apparently showing up in all of us, and he expects the amount collecting in our bodies to keep increasing, unless the world drastically changes its use of plastic. (VOA)