TO CLEAN UP POLLUTION, you need look no further than your kitchen cupboard and medicine cabinet. New research illustrates the pollution-fighting prowess of such common items as salad oil, citric acid, and Mom's favorite antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide.
Just 11/2 quarts of soybean oil pumped into soil around a well intake could clean some 10,000 gallons of groundwater contaminated with modest amounts of nitrates, according to the U.S. Agriculture Dept.'s Soil-Plant Nutrient Research Unit, in Fort Collins, Colo. The oil feeds bacteria that break down the nitrates into harmless nitrogen gas. Nitrates get into groundwater from excessive fertilizing and irrigation or from mishandling of cattle manure.
Citric acid--the stuff in orange juice--binds with metal contaminants in ash produced by municipal incinerators. The resulting metal citrates can be broken down by bacteria and sunlight. The Energy Dept.'s Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., is developing the idea with Forrester Environmental Services Inc., in Stratham, N.H.
Hydrogen peroxide is being used as a substitute for chlorine in many processes, from bleaching pulp for paper to treating water. The latest, according to The McGraw-Hill Companies' Chemical Engineering magazine, is an extra-pure hydrogen peroxide from Houston-based Solvay Interox for cleaning computer chips and boards.