Removing Arsenic from Drinking Water with Trash

In a nice example of upcycling, chemists at Monmouth University have developed a method for removing arsenic from drinking water with discarded plastic bottles.

Arsenic can enter drinking water from naturally-occurring sources as well as from agricultural and industrial sources. Arsenic poisoning from drinking water is a serious problem in many parts of the world.

Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, Ph.D., professor of analytical and environmental chemistry at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey says the method for removing arsenic from drinking water is low-tech and straight-forward. He’s looking for funding or a commercial partner to get the method into use as quickly as possible.

The method involves cutting strips of plastic from plastic soda or water bottles and coating them with cysteine, a common ingredient in dietary supplements and foods. Stir the plastic strips in the water and arsenic binds to the cysteine.

Remove the plastic and the water is clean. Up to 20 parts per billion of arsenic can be removed from the water. WHO standards are less than 10 parts per billion.

I wonder, though, what is to be done with the arsenic-coated plastic strips afterwards. At that point, they are toxic waste. Nevertheless, it solves a significant problem affecting more than 50 million people.

Image by mjmonty, used with Creative Commons license.

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Author: Heather Carr

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