Gold can be extracted from human excrement?

As an ‘endless supply’ of gold, human waste can be a 'treasure' in the future.

Researchers of The United States Geological Survey (USGS) have confirmed the possibility of extracting precious metals from human waste and restoring their values. This finding is highly expected to bring about millions of dollars as well as to protect the environment.

Kathleen Smith, a geologist and geochemist from USGS reveals that the researchers here have found the traces of precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum when analyzing and processing human excrement.


According to the finding of research conducted over the past 8 years, the USGS have found out that in 1 kg of human waste, there are about 0.4 mg of gold, 28 mg of silver, 638 mg of copper and 49 mg of vanadium. In addition, they also detected some substances which are harmful to the environment, especially lead. 

Despite gold’s extremely small proportion in the excrement, the number of people on the Earth has surpassed 7 billion, so the extraction of gold from human feces is practical. In the United States, statistics show that more than 7 million tons of solid organic waste is collected from human waste, and about 60% of that is used as fertilizer, whereas the remaining is often burned or buried. 

There is only one challenges: We can but how to collect those valuable metals in large quantities. Scientists plan to base on the mineral extraction process that is being vastly applied in mining plants to extract precious metals from the feces. This will bring two short-term benefits. We will be able to both acquire valuable metals, and can make human excreta less harmful when applied to the soil. However, in the long run, the chemicals used to extract gold are extremely dangerous, and they can damage the environment if leaking out. 


So how do precious metals get in and remain in human body? According to scientists, the use of cosmetics such as shampoo, shower gel, perfume ... and even clothing is the main cause. In these detergents always exists one or some of the precious metals mentioned above. They penetrate into the body through the skin or when we accidentally swallow. Finally, they are excreted by the digestive system. 

In fact, this is not the first time that a research about the possibility of obtaining precious metals from waste has been conducted. Previously, a wastewater treatment factory in Tokyo successfully extracted gold from sludge with the gold ratio comparable to the top gold mines.

By: Chris Stewart

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