For safer drinking water, the ingenuity of simple solutions

1. Canada

Scientists used sawdust and tannins to trap microplastics in water, potentially paving a way to fight plastics pollution. A filter developed by a team at the University of British Columbia and in Chengdu, China, combined wood dust with the natural compound found in unripe fruit, creating a biodegradable material that trapped up to 99.9% of micro and nanoplastics.

Plastic debris from industrial waste and the breakdown of consumer goods can wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems, in part by introducing toxic chemicals to marine life. For humans, the ubiquity of microplastics emerged with the first reports of plastics in drinking water in 2017. Researchers say their “bioCap”-filtered water, given to lab mice, demonstrated the effectiveness of the filter by showing a lower level of absorbed nanoplastics in the mice.

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on

In our progress roundup, we look at drinking water and ways to increase its safety. While concern about microplastics in tap water is growing in developed societies, in contrast, one-quarter of the world’s people lack access to water that is considered safe by established standards.

Scientists have struggled to find an effective method of filtering microplastics, which vary widely in size, shape, and electrical charge. But the team says that bioCap, made from renewable materials, can be easily scaled for both home and municipal use.

Albert Gea/Reuters/File

Scientist Anna Sanchez Vidal examines microplastics from the ocean with a microscope during a research project in Barcelona, Spain.

Sources: Advanced Materials, University of British Columbia

Previous ArticleNext Article