Sunflower seeds show promise in water treatment study

In the face of global water scarcity and pollution challenges, a recent study by North-West University (NWU) academic Prof Lobina Palamuleni has uncovered a potential solution using an unexpected material: sunflower seeds.

Traditionally recognised for their versatility in food, medicine and industry, sunflower seeds may now play a pivotal role in sustainable water treatment methods.

The research homed in on extracts derived from sunflower seeds (Helianthus annuus), evaluating their antimicrobial properties against three bacterial categories: faecal coliforms, total coliforms and Escherichia coli (E. coli).

The findings suggest that sunflower seeds possess robust antimicrobial characteristics, positioning them as a potent tool in the battle against microbial contaminants in water.

Prof Palamuleni emphasised the urgency of addressing water challenges, especially pollution, which she attributes to human activities and industrialisation.

“Toxic compounds released into water sources pose threats to both plant and animal life, with faecal coliform contamination exacerbating waterborne diseases. Conventional water treatment methods such as chlorination face limitations, prompting the quest for alternative, sustainable solutions,” she explained.

Phytoremediation, a nature-based approach that employs plants to purify water, took centre stage in the study. The common sunflower demonstrated antimicrobial effects against various bacterial strains. “This highlights its potential to hinder the growth of harmful microorganisms in water,” said Prof Palamuleni.

This promising outcome suggests a potential environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution for water treatment, especially beneficial for rural communities with limited access to conventional methods.

Despite advancements in water treatment technologies, Prof Palamuleni said the study shows that many rural communities, especially in developing countries, still lack access to safe water.

“The exploration of sunflower seeds as a viable alternative for household-level water treatment is a step towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6, aiming to ensure water and sanitation for all by 2030,” she said, adding that further investigation into the seeds is needed.


Prof Lobina Palamuleni.

Submitted on Fri, 03/08/2024 - 05:59