Urban runoff is the bane of open water swimmers. Whether the runoff is due to rainfall or the man-made pollutants and trash that make its ways from the streets, factories and farms to our rivers and oceans, it does affects open water swimmers, most of whom swim relatively close to the shorelines. The pollutants include sewage, pesticides, chemical runoff from industrial plants, engine oil from cars.

Researchers recently announced a portable biosensor that can detect very tiny amounts of contaminants in the ocean in less than ten minutes. This can radically change the way lifeguards, municipalities and open water swimming event directors instruct the public and race participants about the amount of pollution in open bodies of water. The new technology can help spot and track dangerous contaminants in the oceans faster and cheaper than current methods.

If a beach needs to be closed down, we have a sensor to take a sample quickly and determine if it is, going to be concentrations that are harmful to humans,” explained Candace Spier, Ph.D. of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “This sensor can be brought to the field instead of bringing the sample back to the lab and the sensor can also determine the concentrations on site.”

Dr. Spier and her colleagues use antibodies to identify pollution in water. As water flows through the sensor, antibodies mixed with a dye bind to any contaminants. This allows the level of pollution to be identified when it glows as the dye is exposed to fluorescent light. Not only does this sensor and the methodology have immediate positive benefits for environmental scientists, but also, potentially sometime in the future, great benefits to open water swimming race directors and locations where many people gather to enjoy a day at the beach.

For more information on biosensors, read here.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source