7 October 2016

EU will protect future drinking water from natural toxins

Drinking water

The new research network, NaToxAq, will train early stage researchers across borders to tackle the future protection of drinking water in Europe. The network focuses on natural toxins from plants. Unlike many other chemicals, their effects on the aquatic environment are mostly unknown.

Bracken is one of the species that spreads to a large extent and which thrives in both Denmark and many other countries. In addition, the plant is one of the few that produce carcinogens, and can therefore adversely affect drinking water quality.  Photo: Natasja Lykke Corfixen.

Today there is extensive knowledge of how water resources are affected by industrial chemicals such as pesticides, medical products and detergents, but when it comes to knowledge about natural toxins environmental contamination, including drinking water, there are virtually no data. The natural toxins include thousands of different plant-derived substances, which most people are used to take into account by for example avoiding eating poisonous plants and fungi.

Based on many years of research in the natural toxins the Environmental Chemistry group at the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at University of Copenhagen has gathered a number of experts and partners from around the globe (see who is involved) who will form the new Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN network, NaToxAq. The network will specialize in impact of toxins on Europe's water resources.

The various institutions in NaToxAq project involve both universities, research centers and water supplies, which will recruit international doctoral students in order to create a strong research network. In addition, all students will cross at least one border during their studies to stay at one of the project's other partners and learn from their expertise.

"The PhD projects in NaToxAq differ from others in the way that the students are part of a larger network that will meet many times and should end up with skills which will enable them to undertake specific work functions where they can help to solve the challenges in the field. Therefore, both the communication and training component are really important", says Professor Hans Chr. Bruun Hansen, Coordinator of NaToxAq.

In total, 15 doctoral students in both analytical chemistry, environmental and geochemistry, water resources, risk analysis and modeling work together on the project, which will start 1st of January 2017. The natural toxins will be followed through all processes: from the production in plants and all the way when passing through the water supplies and being in the drinking water that ends up in the taps. Cooperation between the 15 students will ensure the establishment of thorough knowledge in all areas.

See the full article (only available in Danish) at the homepage of Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences.