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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 03:15 GMT 04:15 UK
Water filter set to save lives
Floods in Bangladesh
Bangladeshis have problems getting clean water

A Bangladeshi professor is due to formally launch a new water filter on Sunday, which its backers say will save millions of lives around the world.

The filter, which contains a mixture of crushed bricks and ferrous sulphate heated together, will be showcased at the world conference on arsenic poisoning in the United States.


The people in our village know this filter can save their lives. Many people who had the first signs of arsenic poisoning have now been cured

Village resident Koli
It is specifically designed to extract arsenic and lead from millions of tube wells all over the country.

Supporters of the filter say it could prove to be a major breakthrough in the battle against arsenic poisoning.

In Bangladesh alone, the World Health Organization estimates as many as 80 million people could be affected by naturally occurring arsenic in underground water supplies across the country.

Saving lives

"About a year and a half ago, a professor came into my office and asked if I could help him, and I said 'certainly, I'll try'," said academic David Nunley.

Professor Fakhrul Islam then told David Nunley, of the non-governmental organisation International Development Enterprises, about the water filter and asked for his help in its promotion.

The significance of his invention could be huge. Aid agencies say millions of lives in Bangladesh are at risk because of arsenic contaminated water.

Woman serving tea
Even a cup of tea could be contaminated
"One of the things that is unique about this filter is even if you didn't have arsenic in the water and you only had iron, this is still a great filter to filter iron," said David Nunley.

The invention of the filter is a rare good news story from Bangladesh, a country so often associated with natural disasters.

The filter has been invented by a Bangladeshi scientist for Bangladeshis, only costs around $3, and can supply enough drinking water every day for a family of four.

So highly acclaimed is the invention that the United Nations is helping to organise a campaign that will distribute the filter to every village in the country.

But Professor Islam remains modest about his achievement.

"If I actually give some service to my own people, to all the isolated areas, I think this is the only achievement I will have. I think I'll be happy with that," he said.

Already, the filter has been introduced on a trial basis to villages across the country. For women like Koli, the affect has been remarkable.

"The people in our village know this filter can save their lives. Many people who had the first signs of arsenic poisoning have now been cured," she said.

Backers of Professor Islam's filter hope that the publicity that it receives at the Arsenic conference in San Diego will help raise funds to end arsenic contamination in Bangladesh, described by the World Health Organization as the largest mass poisoning in human history.

See also:

26 Mar 02 | Health
18 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
07 Oct 99 | South Asia
27 Sep 99 | Medical notes
Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


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