By Corsin Boos
More than 300 million people are affected by fluoride-contaminated drinking water worldwide. The World Health Organization has set its goal to enable the access to clean drinking water to all humans on earth by 2030. That requires an immense effort to achieve, and utilizing locally available bauxite to treat fluoride-contaminated drinking water might be a big step in the right direction.
Access to clean and safe drinking water is essential for the well-being and health of communities around the world. Unfortunately, groundwater contamination with high fluoride levels poses a significant challenge in several regions, particularly in India. Excessive fluoride concentration in drinking water can have severe health implications, leading to dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, both unhealable, and other related ailments. However, in her talk at ETH, Dr. Katya Cherukumilli presented a promising solution in the form of an inexpensive and efficient remediation method that utilizes Indian bauxite.
India, with its vast population, faces a substantial issue of fluoride-contaminated groundwater, particularly in regions where the fluoride concentration exceeds the permissible limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Conventional methods of defluorination involve the use of expensive materials and complex treatment processes, making them less accessible to rural communities and economically disadvantaged areas. A paper from K. Chikumbusho et. al (2013) proposed the use of raw Bauxite for the Defluorination of drinking water. In her own study, Dr. Karya Cherukumilli then explored the effective defluorination with Bauxite from different parts of the world with a focus on Indian bauxite.
Different Fluoride Removal Efficiencies
The paper explored the potential of Indian bauxite as a defluorination agent and compared it to bauxite from around the world. Bauxite, a common mineral ore abundantly found in India, was processed using a simple and cost-effective method to enhance its fluoride removal capacity. The key findings of the research paper are as follows:
- High fluoride removal efficiency: The study revealed that the processed Indian bauxite exhibited remarkable efficiency in removing fluoride from groundwater although it’s only half as effective as other bauxite because of its high calcium content. Still the defluorination capacity of the bauxite was found to be comparable, if not superior, to many expensive commercially available materials commonly used for this purpose.
- Cost-effectiveness: The processing technique employed in this study made use of inexpensive and locally available materials, rendering the defluorination process highly cost-effective. This affordability aspect is crucial, particularly in rural and economically challenged regions where the prevalence of fluoride-contaminated water is high. Although Indian bauxite is only half as effective as other bauxite, it’s financially not viable to import other bauxite from other countries.
- Sustainable solution: The use of Indian bauxite offers a sustainable solution to the problem of groundwater fluoride contamination. By utilizing a naturally occurring mineral resource found in abundance, the dependency on expensive imported materials can be significantly reduced, leading to a more sustainable and self-reliant approach.
Locally sourced material could pave the way for access to affordable and safe drinking water
The research paper's findings have far-reaching implications for addressing the challenge of groundwater fluoride contamination in India and other regions facing similar issues.
- Affordable access to clean water: The inexpensive defluorination method utilizing Indian bauxite can pave the way for affordable access to clean drinking water for communities affected by high fluoride levels. This can have a positive impact on public health, reducing the prevalence of fluorosis-related diseases.
- Local economic development: The availability of a low-cost defluorination material sourced locally can stimulate economic development in regions where bauxite mining and processing are prevalent. This can create employment opportunities and foster local industries while addressing a critical societal issue.
- Replicability and scalability: The processing technique used in this study can be replicated and scaled up in various regions facing similar fluoride contamination challenges. The widespread adoption of this method has the potential to mitigate the problem on a larger scale, benefiting communities globally.
What stand in the way of implementing this into the real world?
The paper offers a solution to the challenge of fluoride-contaminated groundwater. The use of Indian bauxite as a cost-effective defluorination agent opens up new possibilities for providing clean and safe drinking water to communities affected by high fluoride levels. For implementing into reality, further research and tests must be conducted. Questions like the long-term effectiveness of the process and the possible health implications need to be answered. Furthermore, a specific device or a system for implementing the defluorination process using bauxite on a practical scale is still in development.