'World's Most Useful Tree' Provides Low-Cost Water Purification Method for Developing World

Mar 03, 2010

A low-cost water purification technique published in Current Protocols in Microbiology could help drastically reduce the incidence of waterborne disease in the developing world. The procedure, which uses seeds from the Moringa oleifera tree, can produce a 90.00% to 99.99% bacterial reduction in previously untreated water, and has been made free to download as part of access programs under John Wiley & Sons' Corporate Citizenship Initiative.

A billion people across Asia, Africa, and Latin America are estimated to rely on untreated surface water sources for their daily water needs. Of these, some two million are thought to die from diseases caught from contaminated water every year, with the majority of these deaths occurring among children under five years of age. Michael Lea, a Current Protocols author, and a researcher at Clearinghouse, a Canadian organisation dedicated to investigating and implementing low-cost technologies, believes the Moringa oleifera tree could go a long way to providing a solution.

"Moringa oleifera is a vegetable tree which is grown in Africa, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, and South East Asia. It could be considered to be one of the world's most useful trees," said Lea. "Not only is it drought resistant, it also yields cooking and lighting oil, soil fertilizer, as well as highly nutritious food in the form of its pods, leaves, seeds and flowers. Perhaps most importantly, its seeds can be used to purify drinking water at virtually no cost."

Moringa tree , when crushed into powder, can be used as a water-soluble extract in suspension, resulting in an effective natural clarification agent for highly turbid and untreated pathogenic surface water. As well as improving drinkability, this technique reduces water turbidity (cloudiness) making the result aesthetically as well as microbiologically more acceptable for human consumption.

Despite its live-saving potential, the technique is still not widely known, even in areas where the Moringa is routinely cultivated. It is therefore Lea's hope that the publication of this technique in a freely available protocol format, a first, will make it easier to disseminate the procedure to the communities that need it.

"This technique does not represent a total solution to the threat of waterborne disease," concluded Lea. "However, given that the cultivation and use of the Moringa tree can bring benefits in the shape of nutrition and income as well as of far purer , there is the possibility that thousands of 21st century families could find themselves liberated from what should now be universally seen as19th century causes of death and disease. This is an amazing prospect, and one in which a huge amount of human potential could be released. This is particularly mind-boggling when you think it might all come down to one incredibly useful tree."

Explore further: Nanocrystalline cellulose modified into an efficient viral inhibitor

More information: Paper: www3.interscience.wiley.com/resolve/doi?DOI=10.1002/9780471729259.mc01g02s16

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User comments : 2

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Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Mar 03, 2010
Now, why would anybody use virtually free, highly-effective Moringa Oleifera technology that carries with it so many additional benefits, when they could PAY for chemical/photo disinfection and physical filtration technology to accomplish the same thing?
fixer
5 / 5 (1) Mar 03, 2010
Artemisia annua L is also grown on 3 continents,
Kills Malaria, Cancer, intestinal worms and parasites as well as damping inflammation and reducing pain.
t can be ground into a paste and applied to a wound to stop infection and it can be steeped in dirty water to kill microbes and bacteria and can even be eaten as part of a salad though it tasts disgusting.
Its the mainstay of Anamed international, a 3rd world aid group and is freely available almost anywhere.
More info can be found in google or wiki, or at
http://sun.ars-gr...tsp.xsql
or at http://www.anamed...ome.html

Lots of useful plants out there if you know where to look.

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