SEATTLE, Washington — Affordable water purification is an important part of fighting poverty. Clean water is a fundamental need, but it also must be affordable if it is going to help those who are already struggling financially. As a response to the sometimes costly issue of clean water, there are some new creative solutions to purify water using common plants instead of the commonly-used charcoal.
Water is essential to human life, but in 2019, the WHO reported that 2.2 billion people did not have access to safely managed drinking water. When people do not have access to clean water, education, employment and health suffer. Therefore, the simple availability of clean water is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. It makes sense that many are developing advancements in water purification technology to help solve this problem. Some of the most interesting and innovative of these include using readily available plant life, like cilantro and a relative of the daisy. These plants could provide safe, inexpensive and environmentally friendly methods to provide more people with access to safe water.
Cilantro is a leafy green herb that is commonly grown and used in Mexican and Indian cuisines. Not only can it put the finishing touch on a delicious meal, but it can also save lives. Around Mexico City, pollution from water waste often makes its way into the city, penetrating drinking and irrigation water. This results in people ingesting high levels of heavy metals like mercury, nickel and lead, which can lead to serious health complications and neurological damage.
Charcoal water filters like the Brita filter would solve the problem, but they come with a hefty price tag. Many impoverished people with little to no clean water access are unable to afford the expensive purification technology. However, a research team from Ivy Tech Community College alongside colleagues from the Universidad Politécnica de Francisco I. Madero have developed an innovative way to solve this problem: cilantro. Widely available in Mexico, cilantro is inexpensive to produce and locally grown. The herb uses bio-absorption processes to remove toxins from water. It only takes a handful to purify a pitcher of water, just dry it and put it in a teabag. The pay-offs of this type of water filtration are huge and do not break the bank.
A relative of the daisy plant, Tridax procumbens, long known for its medicinal properties, is being used for water purification in India. Chemist Malairajan Singanan of the Presidency College has been spearheading research on the plant’s filtration properties.
The plant has the ability to remove fluoride from drinking water through bio-absorption processes, not unlike cilantro. Although fluoride is added to many safe water sources, it can be dangerous in high amounts. In India, natural fluoride levels in water are very high, so it is important to closely monitor fluoride levels in drinking water. Not only can this plant extract fluoride, but it also works to remove other common heavy metals from water. The best part about this plant is that it is already widely grown and locally used, making it an inexpensive way to potentially improve water quality for many people.
- Noelle Nelson