WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. (Sept. 8, 1 p.m. ET) — A simple and inexpensive method to extract deadly arsenic from drinking water using plastic bottles could dramatically improve health in underdeveloped nations, reports a research team at Monmouth University.
With almost 100 million people in developing countries exposed to dangerously high levels of arsenic, and unable to afford complex purification technology, MU's Professor Tsanangurayi Tongesayi has described arsenic removal by flaked PET bottles coated with cysteine, an amino acid found in dietary supplements and foods.
The work was reported at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, held Sept. 1.
Tongesayi commented: “Dealing with arsenic contamination of drinking water in the developing world requires simple technology based on locally available materials. Our process uses flakes from plastic beverage bottles. When the flakes are coated with cysteine and stirred into arsenic-contaminated water, they work like a magnet – the cysteine binds up the arsenic. Remove the plastic and you have drinkable water.”
He described laboratory tests of the purification method on water containing 20 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic, twice the safe concentration set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. The water was rendered drinkable, with 0.2 ppb or less arsenic – more than meeting the federal standard.
The method is straightforward enough for people without technical skills to use, Tongesayi said. It can use discarded plastic bottles available locally, and applying the cysteine is simple.
Tongesayi is seeking funding or a commercial partner. He reported that the technology also has the potential for removing other potentially toxic heavy metals from drinking water.
Arsenic may enter drinking water supplies from natural deposits in soil and rock, or from agricultural and industrial sources.