At a time when governments all over the world are finding ways to end the smoking menace, scientists have found that the discarded cigarette ash can help remove asenic elements from water.
While the technology for removing arsenic from water is not new and is in use in industrialised areas, it is more expensive and not practical for rural and developing regions.
Recognising that the porous structure of cigarette ash could be better suited to remove arsenic from water, scientists decided to test it in a simple and inexpensive one-step method — the researchers prepared cigarette ash with a coating of aluminium oxide.
When they tested the material with contaminated ground water, they found it removed more than 96 percent of the arsenic, reducing its levels to below the standard set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Because cigarette ashes are discarded in countries around the world and can be easily collected in places where public smoking is allowed, it could be part of a low-cost solution for a serious public health issue,” said lead researcher Jiaxing Li.
His research paper will be published in the journal Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research.
Scientists have been exploring the use of natural waste materials such as banana peels and rice hulls for removing arsenic from water but these so far have shown limited efficiency.
The odourless and tasteless element can cause skin discolouration, stomach pain, partial paralysis and a range of other serious health problems.