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Bacteria That Will Eat Odours In Smelly Public Toilets

Chinese researchers have found bacteria that feeds off human waste and can apparently at the same time eliminate odour, giving it the potential to make smelly toilets a thing of the past.

Researchers with the Chinese Academy of Sciences believe that the bacteria if ever marketed commercially would be particularly useful in public toilets as a way of tackling the bad smell.

The poor sanitation in most public toilets on the Chinese mainland is a major issue for many in the country whether visiting from abroad or locals. Many toilets in less developed areas of the mainland do not flush and waste can be left for months, if not years.

The scientists team spent years isolating micro-organisms from human and pig intestines, where conditions were regarded as more or less similar to a waste pit. They say that the bacteria they eventually isolated was from the Lactobacillus family, already widely used by humans for example in the production of yoghurt, cheese, beer and chocolate.

The say that by using the bacteria up to 75 percent of the odour can be removed meaning that the air fresheners already in place will be far more effective. The technology can be applied in either liquid or power form, and it is cheap. A half-litre bottle costs about 20 yuan (around 2 GBP) and it can be used to treat several toilets as the bacteria grows rapidly on waste.

Lactobacillus feeds on human waste, releasing lactic acid that eliminates the growth of most odour-making bacteria.

The "smell-free toilet" study was highlighted on the academy's website recently as offering an "ultimate" cure to an "urgent" national issue.

Dr Yan Zhiying, a bacteriologist with the academy's Chengdu Institute of Biology and lead scientist on the project, said tourists in Sichuan province would be the first to benefit from the technology when a pilot project gets under way.

The province is home to numerous tourist attractions, including the Jiuzhai Valley National Park, which plans to introduce the smell-killing germs to its public toilets as soon as possible.

"It's fair to say they will get a refreshing experience in the future," Yan said.

To further reduce odour, the team has also researched introducing yeast, which feeds on nitrogen, and bacteria that can produce a pleasant aroma. In fact in total more than 100 microbes emerged as candidates, all of which were studied and tested in the real world.

Yan said that the technology could be applied to any place with smelly organic waste, such as animal farms or urban dump yards. A major landfill site in Guangzhou had already contacted the team about using the technology. If the technology is applied nationwide, the institute is able to produce 1,200 tonnes of the powder a year.

"The effect will be limited in a flush toilet. The more waste in a toilet, the better the result," he said.

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