Drinking Water Becomes More Accessible With A New Polymer Membrane

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Access to clean drinking water is one of the most significant issues plaguing the world after poverty. Worldwide more than 785 million people lack access to safe drinking water. It’s not just in poor, underdeveloped countries. People in Nations such as the United States and India struggle to obtain safe water on a daily basis.

According to the World Health Organization, 91% of the world’s population gets their drinking water from “improved sources” such as piped household water connections, public standpipes, boreholes, etc. Only 9% of the population receives their water from “improved sources” such as unprotected wells, unprotected springs, and surface water from rivers, dams, and streams.

In many cases, these natural/unimproved sources are polluted and cause a variety of issues, including diseases and birth problems. Increasing population, climate change, poverty, and income inequality have exacerbated the problem in the past few decades.

Numerous solutions have been developed over the years to improve access to safe drinking water. To improve accessibility, many of these technologies are simple and easy to produce. A collaboration of scientists at Tufts University School of Engineering has created another breakthrough invention.

The researchers at Tufts have created a novel polymer membrane that can separate fluoride from chloride and other ions, twice as efficiently as other existing methods. Accordant to a study featured in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers’ invention could prevent excessive fluoride in water supplies.

Fluoride is used extensively in the water filtration process and has many benefits, including prevention of tooth decay in humans. However, excessive fluoride can result in severe health problems, including fluorosis, calcification of tendons and ligaments, and bone deformities.

Fluoride can naturally occur in vast quantities near groundwater sources and is identified by the World Health Organization as causing millions of cases of skeletal and dental fluorosis worldwide. The invention promises to make the world a little closer to solving the water crisis by providing an inexpensive way to filter fluoride.

Cover Photo: Shutterstock

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