Green water treatment will benefit communities
Water is vital for living organisms but the quality of water is changing due to population growth and environmental changes. Could a miracle plant be the answer?
Ground and surface water serve as the main sources of drinking water in rural and urban areas, however, the availability of potable water is still a major concern.
Nitrate is one of the most common groundwater contaminants in rural areas. It is regulated in drinking water because excess levels can cause methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby" disease, which is a fatal blood disorder.
Although nitrate levels that affect infants do not pose a direct threat to older children and adults, they do indicate the possible presence of other more serious residential or agricultural contaminants such as bacteria or pesticides.
For her master’s research, North-West University (NWU) PhD chemistry candidate Tshepiso Moremedi assisted communities in the rural villages of Seweding and Stadt village to understand the health effects of nitrate in drinking water. This included the mechanisms for treating drinking water by using Moringa Oleifera (M. oleifera), a non-toxic tropical plant found throughout India, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The plant has many names including the drumstick, miracle or never die tree and its leaves, pods and roots have numerous uses.
Miracle tree the answer?
In her research Tshepiso investigated green synthesis of iron nanoparticles (FeNPs) using M. oleifera extracts and their applications for the removal of nitrate (NO3−) from water and their antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli (E.coli) in the two Mahikeng communities.
E.coli bacteria is a faecal coliform that occurs universally in sewage and plays an important role in the sanitary analysis of water, which is why it was chosen for this study.
She applied a green synthetic method to synthesize FeNPs using M. oleifera extracts for the removal of NO3− from surface and groundwater. In addition, the antibacterial activity of synthesized FeNPs was also investigated against E.coli. The results revealed that the synthesized FeNPs using M. oleifera extracts had a positive effect on the removal of NO3 – and also had antibacterial properties.
Science and nature working together
The use of nanotechnology techniques has been introduced when using plant extracts because nanostructured systems can improve the effectiveness of plant extracts. This concept of green nanotechnology can also prevent the use of toxic chemicals and eliminate the production undesirable or toxic products.
M. oleifera was of interest because it is ideal for application in developing countries and has been used for decades due to its nutritional and antimicrobial properties. It is also not difficult to grow in dry conditions. Its great advantage is that it is not technologically difficult to use.
According to the latest report by World Health Organization, 844 million people rely on reliable sources, and over 159 million depend on surface water. Annually, millions of people die from diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, which are caused by poor quality water. High concentrations of nitrate (NO3−) in water poses serious threats to drinking water supplies and promote eutrophication.
With the help of a miracle of nature, Tshepiso is using chemistry to forge ahead in ensure better water quality for all.
NWU PhD chemistry candidate Tshepiso Moremedi spends many hours conducting research.
The Moringa Oleifera (M. oleifera) tree.