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Ash to Rescue: Can Filter Arsenic from Water

Update Date: Oct 18, 2014 07:44 PM EDT

Chinese scientists have found a potential use for cigarette ash with profound health benefits. They discovered ash's ability to rid water of arsenic, which is known to cause a host of disorders in adults and children.

Arsenic contamination of water, usually groundwater, can cause illnesses including cancer, blindness, and heart disease following chronic exposure. Acute arsenic poisoning can cause headaches, confusion and diarrhea. If poisoning is not arrested, it can cause death. Until a few decades ago, in underdeveloped countries like Bangladesh, arsenic poisoning was one of the leading causes of high infant mortality.

A new study by researchers in China has found that cigarette ash can remove 96 percent of arsenic, either natural or industry produced, from water. This implies a decrease in arsenic levels beyond tolerable levels defined by the World Health Organization.

Jiaxing Li and his team of researchers from Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing used ash coated with aluminum oxide to see if it can filter arsenic better than materials used in similar past experiments. Daily Mail reported the findings while explaining that ash's consistent porosity makes it a good filter to remove arsenic.

Equipment to filter arsenic from water exists but is expensive, making it unviable for impoverished communities. Ash on the other hand is inexpensive and is available in large quantities. Researchers said that cigarette ash discarded could be easily collected for producing a low cost solution to address this pubic concern, Business Standard reported.

The findings of the study have been published in ACS' journal Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research.

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