Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 4    April 2011

Is That a Banana in Your Water?
Condensed by Native Village

New science shows that banana peels can pull heavy metal contamination from river water.

Metals like lead and copper enter our waterways from many sources such as agricultural runoff and industrial wastes. These heavy metals poison the soil and pose health risks to humans and other species. Lead is known to affect the brain and nervous system.

Water quality engineers have used silica, cellulose, and aluminum oxide to extract heavy metals from water. The acids in these materials extract the metal ions. However, this solution is expensive and may also present toxic side effects of their own.

Bananas, on the other hand, appear to be a safe solution that even outperforms the competition.

Gustavo Castro is from the Biosciences Institute in Botucatu, Brazil. He has coauthored a new study on the new use of the fruit's peels.

For the study, Castro and his team dried and ground banana peels, then put them in flasks of water with known concentrations of metals. They also built water filters out of peels and pushed water through them.

In both cases, “the metal was removed from the water and remained bonded to the banana peels,” Castro said. He added that banana peels extracted more heavy metals than the methods currently in place.

Other plant parts—including apple and sugar cane wastes, coconut fibers, and peanut shells—can remove potential toxins from water, too.

Castro said the study findings are most likely to be useful in industrial settings.

The new study appears in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

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