Lucy Wang

Cilantro Purifies Drinking Water in Developing Countries Cheaply and Sustainably

by , 09/15/13

cilantro, water purification, biosorbent, cilantro biosorbent, cilantro water, developing countries, toxic metals, activated carbon, Douglas Schauer, sustainable solutions, water contamination

No longer just a flavorful garnish, cilantro has taken center stage in studies that show how the leafy herb might be a new, low-cost solution to purifying drinking water. Popularly used in Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisine, cilantro is being hailed for its potential as a “biosorbent” that can remove lead and other toxic heavy metals from contaminated water.

cilantro, water purification, biosorbent, cilantro biosorbent, cilantro water, developing countries, toxic metals, activated carbon, Douglas Schauer, sustainable solutions, water contamination

Typically, water purification relies on advanced technology that uses activated carbon — an approach that is often too expensive for most developing countries, particularly rural areas. Thus, Douglas Schauer, Ph.D. has focused his research on biosorbents, low-cost and sustainable alternatives that rely on natural materials such as microbes and plants. In explaining the appeal of biosorbents, Schauer describes a scenario: “When the filter in a water purification pitcher needs to be changed, they could go outside, gather a handful of cilantro or some other plant, and presto, there’s a new filter ready to purify the water.”

Also known as coriander and Chinese parsley, the plant is easily grown both at home and in the wild, making it readily available for many developing countries afflicted by a contaminated water supply. The key to the plant’s success lies in the architecture of its outer cellular walls that make cilantro ideal for absorbing toxic metals such as lead. Results from small-scale experiments carried out in Mexico have supported Schauer’s research and have even suggested that cilantro was more effective at water purification than conventional methods.

Via Phys

Images via Wikimedia, likeablerodent

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12 Comments

  1. Yogesh Sharma September 28, 2014 at 2:01 am

    what is the Mechanism ?

  2. Taylor Norrell May 9, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Is heavy metals a bigger concern than pathogen contaminated water in developing countries? Does cilantro contribute to pathogen reduction in drinking water?

  3. Diana Lb February 26, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    How does it work though? How much cilantro do you put in how many liters of water and for how long? Thanks.

  4. Andrew Payne September 16, 2013 at 1:05 am

    @bennyh they could let the cilantro biodegrade and dessicate until you’d basically have dirt and contaminants. I think they could develop or use an existing decontamination process on the remainder.

  5. bennyh September 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    What to do with the Cilantro after it filters out the contaminated water? If its full of lead, you probably shouldn’t eat it or feed it to anything you’re planning to eat later.

  6. Kevin Haendiges September 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Having visited a number of developing nations in my Navy days, those countries would cut a lot of the contamination by the simple expedient of not dumping their raw sewage into their water supply. Sanitation standards in the Third World are nowhere near as stringent as ours, they could clean their water most efficiently by not taking a dump in it.

  7. EchtoGammut September 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Great idea, except cilantro is really hard to grow. It requires a moist cool environment, unlike the spicy food it is associated with. There is no way this could be grown in most areas that need cheap water filtration, which means it will have to be imported.

  8. Zohar Atai September 14, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    DO you know if the Cilantro filters Fluoride?

  9. rdrewd September 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Using a food product to filter out heavy metals makes me nervous. How to make sure that no one consumes the cilantro after it has done its filtering job?

  10. Avarana Avarana September 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    It would be interesting to see an actual application of this investigation. The link describes it as tea bag packets or filters.

  11. laurenvines September 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I am interested to know how much is needed in proportion to amount of water and how long it takes to purify the water.

  12. Irene McDonagh September 13, 2013 at 12:07 am

    THANK U FOR THE INFO.

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