The 7th International Symposium on Environmental Arsenic, which was held in mainland China for the first time, closed in Beijing on July 4. During the three-day meeting, experts and scholars from nearly 30 countries and regions (include Britain, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Holland, Australia, Japan, India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, etc.), as well as universities and research institutions across China, got together to discuss, share experiences and results on issues such as arsenic pollution treatment. The participating experts agreed that arsenic pollution and its harm to human health is a global problem that requires global solutions.

In many speeches of the conference, a new arsenic removal material based on nano-ceramic materials introduced by Dr. Li Yongfang from the center for environmental and chronic diseases, college of public health, China Medical University, attracted the attention of the participants and the media. This is a high-efficiency arsenic removal product jointly developed by China Medical University and Mesofilter Inc. in San Francisco, USA. It has obtained two certifications from NSF-International, an international authority certification body. This is the simplest drinking water arsenic removal technology and product that NSF International has recognized and certified for the first time in the past 25 years.

One of the main partners of the product, Guifan Sun, professor of the Center for Environmental and Chronic Diseases of the School of Public Health, China Medical University, and director of the Liaoning Provincial Key Laboratory, said in an interview during the meeting that this new arsenic removal material and equipment was successfully tested by their R&D team after 12 years of trial and error. Besides two certifications of international authorities, it has also obtained 6 national patents.

“As we know, various endemic diseases caused by arsenic pollution have seriously harmed human health. In the past, there were many materials and methods for removing arsenic, but a fundamental problem could not be solved. That is, the waste after removing arsenic will cause secondary pollution. Therefore, it is impossible to completely eradicate the harm of arsenic to humans. And our arsenic removal materials no longer release arsenic into the environment, completely eliminating secondary pollution,” Sun said.

According to Sun, their new materials can efficiently filter arsenic and other heavy metals only using gravity filtration without the use of voltage and chemicals. It is easy to operate, and has a wide range of applications and low production costs. It can be widely applied to the treatment of residential drinking water and industrial wastewater.

In the past 12 years, professor Sun Guifan’s team and Mesofilter Inc. have cooperated, tried and tested the products to improve the arsenic removal effect of it. According to the results of their on-site verification of arsenic contaminated drinking water in arsenic poisoning areas of Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Gansu provinces, the material’s ability to remove arsenic from water has reached over 90%, which was a breakthrough of the efficiency of arsenic removal technology from laboratory to site. Hunan Lanqing Environmental Protection Engineering Company used their products to treat wastewater from the realgar mines where the local arsenic pollution was very serious. The treated water achieves zero arsenic emissions and was widely welcomed by local governments, related companies, and residents affected by arsenic water pollution.

The reporter was informed at the meeting that about 200 million people in the world have excessive levels of arsenic in drinking water and are threatened by arsenic poisoning. Dozens of countries around the world are suffering from arsenic pollution, including China. A sample survey found that China has more than 19 million people affected by arsenic poisoning, spreading over more than a dozen provinces, mainly because of drinking “tubular deep well” water or arsenic-contaminated water. In 2015, the US Disease Control Center ranked the hazardous substances according to the frequency of detection of hazardous substances in the contaminated sites, toxicity and potential population exposure, arsenic ranked first. The World Health Organization and the US EPA have identified arsenic as a “known human carcinogen” and the “number one killer” of human health.

Dong Liangjie, chairman of a US membrane high-tech company and inventor of arsenic removal products, said that the principle of their arsenic removal in nano-ceramic materials is to physically adsorb arsenic in mesopores (1-50 nm), then the needle-shaped nano material will slowly react to fix the arsenic inside the small hole, so that the used material won’t release arsenic into the environment, thus eliminating secondary pollution.

Sun Guifan pointed out that this highly efficient arsenic removal technology product is the crystallization of Sino US high-tech cooperation. Mesofilter Inc. did the Development, commissioning, modification and laboratory evaluation of materials. The team of China Medical University led by Sun Guifan repeatedly conducted on-site tests on the product in the local arsenic poisoning areas in China and fed the test results back to the US team so that they can modify and perfect the product, and finally achieve the ideal arsenic removal effect.

Professor Sun also said that the safety problems of drinking water are very complicated. Except arsenic, there are many other pollutants that can affect human health, especially heavy metals, high fluoride and high iodine causing endemic diseases, and disinfection by-products of chlorine in urban tap water. After the successful development of nano-ceramic material, the team of China Medical University will extend the research results of this new material to other fields such as removing lead, cadmium, mercury, fluorine, iodine and so on.