Sunday, February 18, 2024

Safe Drinking Water for Pennies


In 2010 the United Nations General Assembly found that : “Safe drinking water and sanitation are human rights. Access to these services, including water and soap for handwashing, is fundamental to human health and well-being. They are essential to improving nutrition, preventing disease and enabling health care…”


 Since 2015, over 600 million people have gained access to safely managed drinking water services. Globally, three out of four people used safely managed drinking water services in 2020. However, that means that 2 billion people still lacked available drinking water when needed and free from contamination in 2020. The number of city inhabitants lacking safely managed drinking water has increased nearly doubling since 2000 to 771 million people. Each year more than 1 million people are estimated to die from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and hand hygiene. In addition, another 250,000 to 500,000 die from schistosomiasis and other waterborne diseases.

from UN Report

Even in the United States not everyone has accessible and safe drinking water. According to a 2022 report from DigDeep, around 2 million Americans lack access to running water and/or a flush toilet. This number includes the estimated 560,000 homeless population in our cities and communities that we see every day (and has increased with the influx of undocumented immigrants to our cities), but there are over 1,400,000 mostly rural Americans who are housed but lack running water and basic indoor plumbing. These are the invisible poor that include poor populations located in the rural south and West Virginia, undocumented immigrant communities along the Mexico-United States border, poor communities in the central valley of California and Native American communities in the Navajo Nation.

As an alternative to maintaining and improving our water treatment and distribution system, social scientists suggest that the future of water is “off-grid” water treatment. This might be a strategy for the global poor, not one we should find acceptable in the United States. As one of their products, Folia Materials a small business in Boston has developed an easy to use paper water filter that could help solve this problem. Theresa Dankovich while working on her PhD in Chemistry at McGill University in Montreal invented a method to synthetize silver nanoparticle within blotting paper, which could be directly used as powerful antibacterial filters.

Dr. Dankovich utilized that technology to co-found (with environmental scientist Jonathan Levine PhD) Folia Materials, a Boston-based small business, to commercialize the coating technology. Folia spent years inventing and patenting the world’s cheapest and most effective process for coating ordinary paper that transforms it into an extraordinary useful products. It can be used to replace plastic, filter out germs and viruses in face masks and to purify water.

The fundamental technology is a food-safe, green-chemistry process that forms silver nanoparticles ionically bonded to cellulosic fibers. The company holds the patents on the industrial coating process and aqueous paper coating formulation, which consists of metal salts and catalysts that reduce the silver and bond it to the cellulosic fibers during the coating process.

According to Chemical Engineering Progress: "Manufacturing costs for all products are minimized by using plant-based food ingredients as green chemistry catalysts and silver nanoparticles to minimize the amount of silver required, as well as being able to directly utilize existing paper, coating and packing equipment with no capital modifications required."

from FWG website

The water filtration product was placed in a separate subsidiary, Folia Water Global, to focus on solving the global safe drinking water problem.  Their product  can  filter  20 liters of water for $0.20. This will make the filter an inexpensive grocery shelf product that can deliver safe drinking water. This is possible because manufacturing process uses commodity inputs and standard industrial coating machinery. This is a miracle that is being piloted in Bangladesh . The commercial scale-up is expected to generate enough business and sales data to attract a national distributor. Once they have a national distributor in Bangladesh, they plan to expand in India, Nepal, Kenya, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Folia Water Global and their partners hope to scale the product to $1 billion a year by 2032.

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