Most of us are unaware of the hidden dangers that may be lurking in our gardens and parks. A growing number of green areas in Europe are redevelopments of land that used to belong to industrial facilities, such as gas plants and oil refineries that can leave highly carcinogenic pollutants in the soil. There are up to 300,000 contaminated sites that need to be tested and treated across Europe, according to EU estimates.
Developers are required to test and decontaminate the soil on former industrial sites before they can be rezoned as residential or leisure spaces. Yet the limitations of current technology mean that chemical laboratory tests are expensive, slow and often miss out on hot-spots of toxicity in the soil. Where most would see a huge problem, Ed Bell saw an opportunity so much so that he even mortgaged his house in order to pursue his idea: to develop a cheaper and portable method of testing soil for the most common pollutants, carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Over the past ten years a team of six at Crown Bio Technology Ltd, UK, (CBT), led by Bell, has developed a solution that practically anyone could use, including homeowners themselves. Safe Soil Tester (SST) is a high-tech, portable device confined to a briefcase, that is linked up to GPS through the European Galileo satellites, which allows accurate mapping of contamination and quick data transmission for analysis.
"The SST technology is primarily a toxicity screen a fast way to say that there is a problem and the soil may be carcinogenic," says Bell. Bell is somewhat of a James Bond of the environmental pollution sector, dashing to meetings with government officials who would like him to develop similar technologies to detect bio-warfare agents and nuclear radiation in the fight against bio-terrorism.
"We got quite a large, one-off grant from EUREKA and had to raise 40% of the costs ourselves. The success of
|Contact: Piotr Pogorzelski|