Three University of Venda professors who developed of a revolutionary ground water absorption treatment system, hope their work will change the lives of millions of rural South Africans.
The system, developed by professors Jabulani Gumbo, Wilson Gitari and Antony Izuagie, reduces fluoride levels in drinking water.
It took the trio three years of research to develop it and Gumbo said this was one of his biggest achievements.
“This is the best thing. I’m so excited about this.The next step is to try to get funding so we can get it into every person’s house in every community.”
The World Health Organisation has reported that more than 400 rural South African communities depend on borehole water for domestic purposes. Dry areas, such as Vhembe district in Limpopo, where the scientists conducted their research, have high levels of fluoride in the water.
Gumbo said: “Fluoride is important in the formation of teeth and bones if present in drinking water at the right concentration. But borehole water in dry rural areas has too much flouride ion which causes teeth to go brown and raises the risk of bone deformities.
“When we were looking at the communities around us, we saw this was a problem. We asked ourselves what we could do to fix this,” he said.
Increasingly, he said, there was a need for technology to be used in isolated and rural communities to ensure the provision of safe and clean drinking water.
“We realised that there was a need to develop cheap and high-capacity adsorbents [a material that has the ability to extract certain substances from gases, liquids or solids, which make use of locally available materials, to ensure safe levels of fluoride in the drinking water in our communities,” Gumbo said.
The three now hope their patents on the treatment system can lead to increased funding so it can be rolled out across South Africa and ultimately the continent, especially to places where borehole water is used.