Prize encourages development of low-cost arsenic-removal solution

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in the USA announced on 1 February the establishment of the Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability that will award US$ 1 million for a practical technology that can prevent the slow poisoning of people throughout the world as a result of arsenic contamination of drinking water.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in the USA announced on 1 February the establishment of the Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability that will award US$ 1 million for a practical technology that can prevent the slow poisoning of people throughout the world as a result of arsenic contamination of drinking water.

Arsenic-contaminated drinking water affects tens of millions of people, especially in developing countries where existing treatment technologies are too expensive for widespread use. The prize will be awarded for the development of a small-scale, inexpensive technique for reducing arsenic levels in drinking water.

In Bangladesh, one quarter of the population drinks water from tubewells - a cheap, low-tech way of accessing groundwater. Many of the country’s estimated 10 million tubewells frequently tap into aquifers contaminated by arsenic from natural sources. Arsenic poisoning is a slow, painful process that can ultimately result in death. Continued exposure to arsenic-contaminated water can lead to debilitating sores, nerve damage, liver failure, kidney failure, cancer or the loss of arms or legs.

The goal of the prize is to encourage the development of a household- or community-scale water treatment system to remove arsenic from the contaminated groundwater. The system must have a low life cycle cost and must be robust, reliable, easily maintainable, socially acceptable and affordable. As a sustainable technology, the system must also be within the manufacturing capabilities of a developing country and must not degrade other water quality characteristics or introduce pathogens. Visit www.graingerchallenge.org for more information.

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