The World Health Organization states that arsenic is responsible for one of the largest mass poisonings in human history, causing cancer in over 1.2 million people and sickening 150 million every year. In order to inexpensively and easily capture arsenic from the environment, Oxford University MSc student, Stephen Goodwin Honan has developed “Clean Water”. The process uses naturally occurring plants known for their ability to sequester the toxic material and a tub to hold water. Arsenic can later be removed from the vegetation and sold for use in the electronics industry.
Clean Water has been hailed as an “idea that will change the world” by the judges at the Global Design Forum, an event held as part of the London Design Festival happening this week. The filter costs only $10 to establish the plants, and water is pumped through tubs or containers that families already own. Arsenic can be chemically extracted from the plants, producing up to $85 worth of the material to be sold for use in semiconductors, solar panels, mobile devices, and computers. There are no extra costs or special skills needed to operate the modular system and no electricity is required.
Honan is in the process of looking for a business partner committed to buying ethical arsenic. In Bangladesh, where he has been conducting his research, the extra money from purchasing the arsenic from filters could help subsistence farmers supplement their income as well as keep their water clean. Honan hopes to establish arsenic recycling and cultivation facilities in the near future. His next endeavor will be to look at value supply chains and the possibility of cleaning up landfills in addition to the water supply.