A Rose Among the Rubble

My mother often encourages me to look for the positive in life. In the last several years, that has been more of a challenge than usual, akin to seeking roses among the rubble. Thankfully, on occasion, a rose presents itself, stubbornly poking out amid the detritus to announce that there is still sweetness and beauty in the world. I had not forgotten, though it is heartening to be reminded.

Here is today’s rose, courtesy of the Associated Press:

Professor wins $1M for arsenic filter

FAIRFAX, Va. –A professor who developed an inexpensive, easy-to-make system for filtering arsenic from well water has won a $1 million engineering prize — and he plans to use most of the money to distribute the filters to needy communities around the world.

The National Academy of Engineering announced Thursday that the 2007 Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability would go to Abul Hussam, a chemistry professor at George Mason University in Fairfax. Hussam’s invention is already in use today, preventing serious health problems in residents of the professor’s native Bangladesh.

After moving to the United States in 1978, Hussam got his citizenship and received a doctorate in analytical chemistry. The Centreville, Va., resident has spent much of this career trying to devise a solution to the arsenic problem, which was accidentally caused by international aid agencies that had funded a campaign to dig wells in Eastern India and Bangladesh….

Hussam spent years testing hundreds of prototype filtration systems. His final innovation is a simple, maintenance-free system that uses sand, charcoal, bits of brick and shards of a type of cast iron. Each filter has 20 pounds of porous iron, which forms a chemical bond with arsenic.

The filter removes almost every trace of arsenic from well water.

About 200 filtration systems are being made each week in Kushtia, Bangladesh, for about $40 each, Hussam said. More than 30,000 have been distributed.

Hussam said he plans to use 70 percent of his prize so the filters can be distributed to needy communities. He said 25 percent will be used for more research, and 5 percent will be donated to GMU. [full text]

2 thoughts on “A Rose Among the Rubble

  1. i love stuff like this. one of my favorites is ‘plumpy nut’ it’s a clump of peanut butter mixed with powdered milk and some vitamins, packed in plastic with a long shelf life. doctors without borders is using it to save babie’s lives.

  2. Great cite. It was quite the news in this local area (Fairfax, Va). As Thomas Friedman noted in “The World is Flat”, Immigrants such as Prof Hussam are of immense value to the US and our global place in the world scientific and engineering community.

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