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Micro-Organisms - Really...I'm Nice!

Microorganisms are not ALL bad!
Do you have the creeps yet? Don’t worry, microorganisms are not ALL bad! There are many positive uses for microorganisms in our lives including:

  • Compost can be used to fertilize family gardens and farmers’ crops. Bacteria decompose dead organisms to create nutrient-rich compost that is great for growing crops.
  • Bacteria also are used in most sewage-treatment plants to break down wastes into carbon dioxide and water.
  • Other types of bacteria are used to clean up environmental pollutants such as oil spills, and other chemical spills. The bacteria can either break down wastes and pollutants into simpler harmless compounds or use the pollutants as a food source. Every year as much as 10% of all wastes produced by industry, agriculture, and cities are treated with bioremediation.
  • Bacteria are found in large numbers in your digestive system. Most are harmless to you, and they help you stay healthy. The bacteria in our bodies produce natural antibiotics that limit the growth of other bacteria. They also produce vitamin K, which is necessary for normal blood clot formation.
  • There are even bacteria that release methane gas as a waste (guess what, you do too!). In some landfills, the amount of methane gas released is so large that some cities collect and burn it for energy. If more cities did this, it could supply large amounts of fuel worldwide.
  • We also use bacteria to make medicines, cleaning products, and glue.
  • Red algae are gelatin-like and are commonly used in cosmetics, toothpaste, pudding, salad dressing. Brown algae is used to thicken ice cream and marshmallows; and is also used in making rubber tires and hand lotion.
  • Diatoms are mined and used in insulation, filters, and road paint. Have you ever wondered why the paint on the roads is visible at night? The cell walls of the diatoms make the paint sparkle. They also add the crunch you feel in toothpaste.

Journal Entry - Take out your science journal and answer the following question(s) (use drawings as appropriate):

  • Write down one thing you didn’t know from the information above.
  • Write ten ways you have benefited from microorganisms in your life.
utah state board of education This Sci-ber Text was developed by the Utah State Board of Education and Utah educators.