Water Filter Brings Health to Millions

By some estimates, more than 40% of people living in India have arsenic poisoning. In some Asian neighborhoods, like that of Abul Hussam's in Bangladesh, everyone was drinking water with arsenic more than three times the safe limit.

Hussam, born in Bangladesh but now residing in the US as a chemistry professor at George Mason University, decided to do something about the water problem that was so prevalent in third world countries. Symptoms of arsenic poisoning vary, but can be severe: most commonly, it can cause skin ailments, but it also can cause nerve damage, fatal cancers, organ failure, the loss of arms and legs, and even death.

In the early ‘90s, Hussam's brother, a physician, asked Hussam if he could find a way to efficiently test water for arsenic. Hussam accomplished that in the mid-‘90s, and then went on to find a way to purify the water.

To do this, Hussam invented a three-tiered water filter that communities can pour well water through to produce clean water. The top bucket contains coarse sand from local rivers for mechanical stability and iron, which removes the inorganic arsenic. The second bucket contains sand mixed with wood charcoal, which removes the toxic organic impurities. Finally, the third bucket contains fine sand and wet brick chips to remove other small particles.

Hussam calls his invention the SONO water filter, and each filter can produce from 20 to 50 liters of clean water per hour. The invention is also necessarily low-tech and affordable: it's manufactured locally, costs just $35, lasts for at least five years, and all maintenance can be performed locally.

Abul HussamAbul HussamLast February, Hussam won the 2007 Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability. With the $1 million prize, Hussam has already set up more than 32,000 filters in Bangladesh, especially targeting schools. Many people have already reported being cured of skin ailments and overall better health.

Aside from being a brilliantly simple idea and a lot of hard integrative work, this is also the ultimate example of an individual giving back to their home. Hopefully everyone who needs clean water will one day be drinking from a SONO filter.

Lisa Zyga
Science Blogger

via: Media For Freedom