When I first started doing water contamination research, I thought I would be helping the plight of billions of children in third world nations. According to Charitywater.org, an organization that raises money to help communities drill wells and obtain access to clean water, one in six people on this planet does not have access to water. A large percentage of them live in Bangladesh, Haiti, India, Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and other third world countries. Who would have thought that we should add America to that list? Although we have organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency supporting us, toxic waters have become a grave issue.
According to The New York Times
, approximately one in 10 Americans has been exposed to contaminated drinking water. Specifically, in the September 12, 2009 issue a family in West Virginia reported that their son obtained painful rashes and scabs from bathing in West Virginia tap water polluted with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. Why? Despite the efforts of the EPA and the Clean Water Act, industrial plants continue to dump waste and pollutants into local water supplies. It is difficult to monitor and stop illegal dumping and violations. Thus, it comes as a great surprise to many communities when they obtain adverse health effects -- such as cancer, partial paralysis, blindness, nausea and other detrimental illnesses -- simply from bathing.
Evidently, if this type of problem persists in your area, contacting local news media and politicians may be effective for creating awareness about the issue. However, for the time being it may be difficult to truly take some legislative action and stop industrial polluting. Personally, I believe that people should take matters into their own hands. If local water pollution is really such a big issue, the only solutions would be: a) selling your house and moving (but who will want to buy a house with polluted water?) or b) obtaining water from other sources.
My research project focuses on addressing the second solution, where people can clean their water with relatively little headache at cost efficient prices. For the past year and a half, I've focused on developing new materials to be placed into devices that can eliminate pollutants, specifically arsenic. I hope that people in local communities in both third world nations and America can rely on household filters for all their water needs. Currently, many Americans use Brita or Pur filters for drinking water, which typically last for two months and cost $10+ per filter. But who says we can't apply larger scale filters for bathwater as well? Sure, it would require much larger and most likely more expensive filters, but with today's technology it should eventually become a feasible option for people who cannot escape local water supply troubles.