Sandia's 'Holy Grail' sucks arsenic from water

November 2, 2001

There may be hope for the victims of the Bangladesh arsenic poisoning catastrophe. Chemists at the Sandia National Laboratory in the United States have developed a process to strip the deadly toxin from drinking water.

The unpublished method involves manipulating the surface chemistry of an as yet unnamed mineral to improve adsorption. The arsenic gets "sucked" onto the surface of mineral particles and leaves the water clean. Team member Nadim Khandaker reported a breakthrough in the past six months.

The inventors are scaling it up into an affordable way for small, impoverished communities to tackle the problem.

Millions of people in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, have been exposed to arsenic-laden water from tube wells bored into the layers of alluvial silt. Many may develop painful lesions and cancers as a result.

Similar pollution has been detected in water in Hanoi, Vietnam, and it is feared that other tropical deltas could also be affected.

The Sandia process is three to six times better than the best commercially available products. It is being developed for field trials.

Dr Khandaker said: "The suffering in Bangladesh is always in my mind. I came to Sandia in search of the Holy Grail. I must say I am not disappointed."

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