Horseradish Clean-up

Horseradish: What comes to mind? Roast beef sandwiches? Phenols and anilines?

Maybe if you're Chad Roper.

A graduate student in environmental pollution control, Roper extolls the virtues of horseradish roots against just those stubborn water pollutants: phenols, active in disinfectants and preservatives like creosote, and anilines, used to make dyes.

Horseradish, Armoracia lapathifolia, a tall, white-flowered herb with large, round-toothed leaves, produces enzymes in its roots that apparently detoxify the water they draw in. The enzymes cause pollutants to polymerize—to clump—and so fall out of solution. Spread on polluted waters, the enzymes should have the same effect, dropping unwanted chemicals to the streambed or basin floor. Yet isolating and purifying the enzymes in quantity has made such treatments too expensive to pursue.

Working with Jean-Marc Bollag, a professor of soil biochemistry at Penn State, however, Roper has demonstrated that simply applying chopped horseradish roots to polluted water substantially reduces the concentration of phenols and anilines in the solution. "As much as 99 percent for some pollutants," he says.

Roper concludes, "Because of its low cost and high efficiency, the direct application of horseradish may represent a breakthrough in the treatment of waters polluted with phenols and anilines." Chad Roper is a graduate student in the intercollege graduate degree program in environmental pollution control, The Graduate School, University Park, PA 16802. His adviser is Jean-Marc Bollag, Ph.D., professor of soil biochemistry; 863-0843.

Last Updated December 01, 2004