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Jul 30, 2013 10:30 AM EDT

Fruit and Vegetable Peels Can Help Cleanse Water, Study

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A research team at the National University of Singapore (NUS), led by an Indian-origin scientist, Ramakrishna Mallampati, has found that fruit and vegetable peels can be used for water sanitization.

The findings are published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces in May 2013.

The two year study found that tomato and apple peels behave like a sponge in contaminated water and help reduce levels of 'heavy metals, pesticides and dyes', vastly.

Tomato is the second most consumed vegetable in the world. Approximately 30 per cent of the vegetable is consumed as a processed product. The study revealed that the peel of eight tomatoes can almost fully rid different contaminants in a litre of water - including heavy metal ions such as lead; dissolved organic and inorganic chemicals, and dyes and pesticides - within an hour.

On the other hand, apple peels are easily accessible as bio waste from food processing industries and are recyclable. They can also eliminate a variety of dissolved water pollutants through the adsorption process.

This finding can help around 800 million people across the world to access clean and safe drinking water at a low cost. A percentage of vegetables and fruits becomes waste product during agricultural production, processing and distribution. But this effective and novel water purification method can put them to good use.

Mallampati, an alumnus of India's University of Pune, said that the discovery could benefit technologically disadvantaged communities in remote villages, who do not have access to water purification devices; where the groundwater gets contaminated by industrial pollution or in places where villagers depend on local rivers for their daily water needs.

The study was conducted under the guidance of Associate Professor Suresh Valiyaveettil of the Department of Chemistry at the NUS Faculty of Science.

Talking about the existing water purification devices in the market, Mallampati said, "There are many other products already in the market, but...developing countries cannot afford these costly technologies."

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