Transforming Arsenic Crisis Into A Technology-Based Economic Enterprise in South Asia

Lehigh University, 2011 - $41,431

Over 200 million people in South and Southeast Asia are routinely exposed to arsenic poisoning by drinking naturally contaminated groundwater. For over ten years, Lehigh University has led an international team in developing, installing and monitoring community-based arsenic removal systems in several Southeast Asian countries. Participating families pay a fee for arsenic-safe water, obtained by using a polymer-based arsenic-selective adsorbent currently manufactured in the US. However, high cost, import duties and uncertainty in shipping due to bureaucratic formalities and customs delays have surfaced as primary obstacles for further growth of the enterprise.

This team has developed an equally efficient, reusable, arsenic-selective adsorbent that will cost 50% less than the current product and will be able to be made in India as opposed to the US, thus eliminating the importing issues. An Indian company, Enhanced Water and Air Pollution Prevention Ltd., has agreed to invest in large-scale synthesis of the material with the goal of providing safe drinking water to high-rise buildings in semi-urban areas, a growing market in the developing world. The idea is that increased revenue from this new low cost middle class market will reduce the risk and enable the serving of more poor people.

Update: The team won a Tech Awards honor (fall 2012), which recognizes innovators and entrepreneurs who make a difference around the world in education, medicine, struggling economies, and social services.