Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Antique science

The Biochemical Oxygen Demand  (BOD) test is widely used by environmental monitoring labs to test inland waters, sewage and sewage works discharges. 

In 1908, the test was selected in the UK as the definitive test for organic pollution of inland waters. It takes five days to complete, has a narrow analytical range, no clear meaning, isn’t accurate, can’t be repeated to check abnormal results and can’t easily be automated. Even so, in spite of all these drawbacks and after 103 years, it is still going strong even though it easily passes the dateline set by many antiques fairs.

The continued use of the BOD test is due entirely to government and quasi-government environmental bodies - the public purse in other words. You thought science was about progress?


James Higham said...

I'd never considered this aspect of it before - they do use antiquated gear, esp IT gear.

A K Haart said...

They use some advanced equipment too, but some of the tests are very old and the equipment can be equally antiquated.

Demetrius said...

There seem to be some reformulated petrol brands around with old brands "beefed up" claiming much better performance. As fine particle technology has advanced rapidly in recent years plus other chemical advances is it possible that the fuel emission tests created in the 1990's are badly out of date? They were set at a certain micron size which now will be well adrift of what is possible. There are other air pollutants as well to consider.

A K Haart said...

Yes, it is possible that fuel emission tests are out of date. I don't know if they are, but it would be interesting to find out.

I do know that environmental monitoring protocols tend not to be updated for long periods of time, partly in order to gather long-term data without step-changes in methodology, partly through inertia.