ZerEau cleans up radioactive waste in healthcare facilities

Radioactive medication is a hopeful solution for many cancer patients, but poses major waste management problems for hospitals. The medication makes patients’ urine radioactive and hospitals are obliged to prevent it to be discharged to the sewer, therefore need to store it, often for a long time. ZerEau has spent the past two years working hard to find a solution in the form of a filter that removes the radioactivity from urine making storage needs smaller and simpler, allow more patients to be treated and prevent harmful chemicals (radioactive or decayed products) enter into the environment.

“We all know that water is extremely precious and that we need to use it sparingly and carefully”, says Mattijs Maris, one of the four founders of ZerEau. “Our whole team has a background in water treatment, especially for medical institutions. We are specialized in reducing water volumes and prevent medical residues to spread into the environment. Capturing radioactivity is the next level.” So, how do you turn 120 litres of radioactive flush water per patient into less than 1 litre of radioactive solid waste? ZerEau has the solution.

Solution for contaminated water
ZerEau was hired to design a filter to purify radioactive contaminated water from hospitals. ”After six months of lab testing the filter, we offered to develop the toilet to match the filters as well. In the summer of 2021, the first prototype of the system was ready for the first patients. There are currently 2 working prototypes in Belgium, 3 others will be installed early 2023.”

Grant brings roadshow
ZerEau had many questions they wanted to answer with field testing; How good are the filters in real life? Do the filters work outside the lab? And how do the filters work with patients who are no longer perfectly healthy? “The data from the study provided us with new research results, which we used to create new prototypes. We applied for an EU-grant that was awarded early 2022.”

That grant kickstarted the development of three new prototypes. These are used in Dutch hospitals, as showcases. “Hospitals get to use the filter for a few months, then we move onto the next hospital. By testing in multiple hospitals, we get a lot more data. As data is key at this stage, this roadshow really is an opportunity for us.”

Changing healthcare
Working with Briskr brought ZerEau a lot of information on legal and financial matters. They also learned more about subsidies, certifications and gained access to provinces and business angels. “Briskr supported us with many of our questions about a new, complex product. The coming year is all about field testing. That should eventually lead to a production series and a design we can officially launch. It’s good to know Briskr and its partners will remain available for help & support.”

ZerEau also wants to develop filters for multiple types of therapies. “The focus is still on radioactive therapies, but many more applications are possible, such as the removal of contrast media. We are already talking with several Dutch hospitals to explore these other fields.”

Causing change in healthcare is no easy task. “It takes a lot of convincing. In addition, the Netherlands lacks good legislation about water conservation at the healthcare level. We have an international focus, because the issue we’re solving is world-wide. There is still a world to win, and we are happy to dedicate ourselves to that!”.

Learn more about ZerEau.