EPA To Use Mushrooms to Break Down BP’s Oil?

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The EPA may experiment with using containment booms made out of mushrooms to break down oil gushing from the Gulf, according to a leading mushroom scientist.

Paul Stamets, a pioneering mycologist, said he had been contacted “at the highest levels of the EPA” to discuss using long, floating cylinders of fungi to break down hydrocarbons floating in the Gulf from the BP oil disaster.

Stamets has experimented with a species of oyster mushroom, pleurotus ostreatus, that can withstand saltwater and establish itself on straw. Applied to diesel-contaminated soil, it cut the dirt’s oil content from 10,000 parts per million to 200 parts per million within 16 weeks.

However, mushrooms have never been deployed en masse to contain oil in the ocean, and many hurdles remain. A source of mushrooms and a local source of straw or shredded wood haven’t been located, and fungi need both time and expertise to reproduce in the massive numbers that would be needed to make a dent in such a large spill.

Oyster mushrooms break down simple oil molecules immediately but take longer with more complex hydrocarbons. This means that mushrooms might need to be deployed on the same slick several times in order to break it down, Stamets said.

Early in the spill the use of “hair booms,” cylinders of hair stuffed into used nylons, showed promise, but the use of them was curtailed for a simple reason: when soaked, hair sinks.

Article by David Ferris appearing courtesy Matter Network.

photo: jeua

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  • http://twitter.com/rinand rinand

    ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ shouldn’t be true…esp. the Gulf oil Spill. http://bit.ly/b26UJM

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Tony

    Wow… I read Paul Stamets book and have spoke with some of his friends and let me assure everybody in here… Paul is a grassroots hero, and a genius in biological resources engineering and will show the world that mushrooms can truly save the world. I have grown mushrooms for a long time and they are exactly what a overpopulated unsustainable society needs in the transition into a more permaculture based society

  • Josh

    Very nice, I love mushrooms and they are useful as a tool. I look forward to following this story.