Cilantro — the spicy ingredient common to many fiery Mexican and Southeast Asian foods — may offer a natural, inexpensive new way to purifying drink water, new research shows.
In a presentation at an American Chemical Society meeting Indianapolis this week, scientists from Ivy Tech Community College and the Universidad Politécnica de Francisco I. Madero in Hidalgo said laboratory studies have determined the herb — also known as coriander and Thai parsley — has significant "biosorbent" properties that allow it to effectively remove lead and other potentially toxic heavy metals from contaminated water.
"Cilantro may seem too pricy for use in decontaminating large amounts of water for drinking and cooking," said lead researcher Douglas Schauer. "However, cilantro grows wild in vast amounts in countries that have problems with heavy-metal water pollution. It is readily available, inexpensive, and shows promise in removing certain metals, such as lead, copper and mercury, that can be harmful to human health."
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Conventional methods for removing heavy metals from water involve treatment with activated-carbon filters or more advanced technology like ion-exchange processes. But cilantro offers a lower-cost alternative that uses natural materials to latch onto heavy metals.
"Our goal is to find biosorbents that people in developing countries could obtain for nothing," Schauer explained. "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."
Schauer envisions packing biosorbents like cilantro into tea-bag-like packets, reusable water filter cartridges, or even tea infuser balls and used to remove heavy metals.
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