Study: Corn cob cheap, effective way to clean water

CORN cobs, which usually end up in a bin or compost heap after the kernels are eaten, can be used to clean our water.

In a recent study, Dr Low Wein Fei (pic), Ee-Yern Lee, Fung-Lung Chang and Nur Harniza Abdul Rahman from the INTI International University Faculty of Engineering and Quantity Surveying (FEQS) found that corn cobs have the potential to remove heavy metals from contaminated or polluted water.

Corn cobs have proven to be useful and effective in removing dyes and heavy metals from contaminated water, Low said in a press release, adding that it is cost-effective to use in adsorption procedures due to its crucial role in removing contaminants from water sources.

“Heavy metals such as chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), and lead (Pb) are among the most common wastewater pollutants.

“Humans and other living things may be exposed to them through the food chain. The use of corn cobs as an alternative adsorbent is being studied,” she said, stressing that heavy metals can be fatal to humans and detrimental to the environment.“Removing excessive pollutants is expensive. As the quality of water deteriorates, the cost of treatment increases.

“Wastewater treatment can be done using advanced technology, but the cost is usually high, making usable water more expensive and leading to rising water tariffs.

“Pre-treatment, which involves removing impurities from wastewater, can be effectively done with corn cobs, vinegar and hydrochloric acid (HCl),” she said.

Urging Malaysians to do their part in protecting the world’s water resources and ensuring that water is safe to use, Low said many cases of water pollution are unreported and hence, untreated.

This, she said, could result in prolonged water disruptions.

“Whatever little we can do – for example, disposing our wastes and unused medicine properly – is important in keeping our water safe. Public campaigns by government and non-governmental organisations would greatly help spread knowledge and awareness.

“It is important to be environmentally conscious about the condition of our water sources.

“Environmental conservation is not easy but if we do it as a society, we can make a difference slowly but surely,” she said, adding that it is part of everyone’s moral obligation to protect the environment for future generations.

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