Humans are fouling the planet at an unprecedented rate. In this Moment of Science, we talk about a substance that we normally might consider a pollutant, but can also be used to clean up pollution.
It may come as a surprise to you to learn that different kinds of animal manure may help treat some types of water pollution. Several kinds of animal manure, mainly horse and cow, have been used to treat polluted water in different parts of the world. In fact, in the case of polluted water in the Bolivian Andes, scientists are using llama droppings.
In the case in the Andes, we're talking about pollution caused by water draining from abandoned mines. In general, mine water often contains high levels of metals and acidity. Thus, it's extremely detrimental to surrounding ecology. Scientists use a combination of llama droppings and limestone that work to cause a chain of reactions that eventually result in a lowering of the water's acidity and metal content.