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Morphix Technologies, Inc.

Superfund Research Program

Lead Detection in Soil and Sediment

Project Leader: Edward Locke
Grant Number: R43ES024618
Funding Period: Phase I: September 2014 – February 2016
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EPA's "Cleaning-Up the Nations Waste Sites: Market and Technology Trends” (2004) estimates that there are 294,000 contaminated waste sites in the United States. Characterizing suspected contaminated sites remains difficult, time consuming, and expensive. Samples are typically sent to laboratories for costly testing that can take weeks. While some field detection kits and instruments exist, they tend to be expensive, difficult to use, and difficult to interpret. In this project, Morphix is developing coordination complex imprinted polymer (CCIP) technology that could result in a product family of field-ready, easy-to-use, low-cost, no- power colorimetric detection cards for use in detecting contaminants in soil.

The initial proof of concept effort focuses on applying CCIP technology to detecting lead in soil. Lead is a stable, heavy metal that is an accumulative neurotoxin in mammals and other animals. It is particularly toxic to children and is one of the most common contaminants found at Superfund sites and ranks second on the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry National Priority List of Hazardous Substances (ATSDR, 2011). Natural levels of the contaminant in soil typically range from 50 - 400 ppm but can be found at levels exceeding 11,000 ppm near abandoned smelting sites (also known as Ghost Factories). Recent articles about Ghost Factories in the general press have highlighted the danger that lead in soil presents to human life and human childhood development.

Morphix Technologies is developing and demonstrating water-compatible CCIPs which are capable of selectively sequestering and concentrating lead complexes resulting from the extraction of lead contaminated soils. Highly selective capture and concentration of the lead contaminant, in conjunction with carefully formulated colorimetric detection chemistries for lead(II), will establish the foundation for the future development of a simple, low-cost presumptive field detection kit. Such a kit will significantly enhance contaminated grid assessment/remediation efforts (e.g. Superfund and Brownfield sites, Ghost factories) by facilitating more fine-scale delineation of the contaminated grid while substantially reducing the time and monetary costs associated with these endeavors.

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