web analytics

New Use of Cilantro—Purifying Drinking Water

Cilantro is a commonly used condiment in some countries. Recently, in this vegetable became a focus that drew a lot of scientists’ attention at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society—the traditional vegetable could be used to purify drinking water.

“Our purpose is to find a free biosorbent for people from developing countries.” Said Douglas Schauer from Ivy Tech Community College at Indiana.  He described:” When the filter in a water purification pitcher needs to change, people could go outside, grab a handful cilantro or other plants, presto and then a new filter is ready to use.”

 MjQl3NRb25zArp6pWJBxSRdByiRzDQi7A9OlJmkSImjoAwAAmwIAAEpQ_645x430Schauer noted that a handful of cilantro can purify the water in a purification pitcher.

Although using activated carbon or ion-exchange resins for drinking water purification are very effective and mature methods, they seem to be too expensive for people living in rural areas of developing countries.  Schauer noted in the meeting that cilantro could absorb heavy metals such as lead, and it is easily accessible and less costly, and hence, it has promising future in water purification.

Some natural materials, ranging from microbes to plants, can act as good biosorbents. Schauer enlisted his student to perform research at the Universidad Politecnica de Francisco I. Madero in Hidalgo, aiming to find an ideal biosorbent. Mexico doesn’t have systems to filter out heavy metals, but cilantro grows everywhere in the wild. Thus, cilantro was selected to be the study subject.

The researchers collected different plants like cactus, dried and crushed them, then added them into solution that had a known lead concentration. After a certain period, the researchers measured the lead content in the solution. The result suggests that among all the collected plants, cilantro has the best biosorbent ability. In the following experiments, the scientists found that cilantro is also good for absorbing other pollutant such as nickel. As far as the efficiency of absorbing heavy metals, cilantro is even better than activated carbon.  Schauer suggested that local factories try to use cilantro for water purification and a handful of cilantro could purify the water in a purification pitcher.

Cilantro’s secret for water purification might lie in its unique structure of the microscopic cells that compose the plant. They have an architecture that is ideal for sorption of heavy metals.  Some other plants, for example, cilantro’s cousins—culantro and parsley, possess similar features and can potentially work as bioshorbents. Currently, Schauer and students are examining the absorbency of this group of plants for other metal ions. Schauer believes that cilantro could make substantial contribution as a purification candidate in developing countries.



Image sourceShutterstock