Weed Could Remove Third World Arsenic Danger
By Tim Walsh
A nuisance weed could provide a cheap and effective way to remove arsenic from
contaminated water supplies in developing countries, according to new research
Dr Parvez Haris, of De Montfort University, Leicester, carried out a series of
lab tests using a powdered material made from dried roots of the water
The plant is known as the "green plague" because it flourishes as a weed in
ponds, lakes and rivers in hot climates and can double in size within weeks.
The tests found that adding the dried root powder to contaminated water cut
arsenic levels by more than 20 times within minutes, to below the World Health
Organisation's safe limit.
Dr Haris says he was inspired to start his research after meeting victims of
arsenic poisoning on a visit to Bangladesh, where contaminated drinking water
is drawn from tube-wells.
WHO estimates that nearly 70 million people in Bangladesh are at risk of being
affected by exposure to arsenic-contaminated ground water and a variety of
health problems, including cancer.
Dr Haris said he needed to carry out more tests to make sure the dried water
hyacinth could be safely used to filter water, but he added: "This
much-maligned but beautiful weed has the potential to be turned into a
life-saving material to help some of the world's poorest people."