Scientists from the University of South Florida have discovered the water purifying power of the prickly pear cactus. An extract from the desert-dweller is very effective at removing sediment and bacteria from dirty H2O and, even better, it grows all around the world.
The scientists aren't the first to realize this plant's ability. Nineteenth-century Mexican communities used the cactus as a water purifier. The thick gum in the cactus that stores water is responsible for the purification. The scientists extracted the gum and then added it to water that had been dirtied up with sediment and bacteria.
The gum caused the sediment and bacteria to combine and settle to the bottom, filtering 98 percent of the bacteria from the water. The next phase is to test it on natural water.
The scientists see communities in developing countries using the cactus on daily basis. They could boil a slice of it to release the gum and then add it to water just like the scientists did. But there are hurdles to overcome. What resources would be necessary for widespread growth of the cactus for this purpose and how can people ensure the "treated" water is truly bacteria free? If these problems can be solved, cheap, clean water could be accessible for millions who are currently without.
via New Scientists
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