Inactivation of bacteria from contaminated streams in Limpopo, South Africa by silver- or copper-nanoparticle paper filters
There is an urgent need for inexpensive point-of-use methods to purify drinking water in developing countries to reduce the incidence of illnesses caused by waterborne pathogens. Previously, our work showed the deactivation of laboratory-cultured bacteria by percolation through a thick paper sheet containing either silver (Ag) or copper (Cu) nanoparticles (NP). In this study, these paper filters containing AgNPs or CuNPs have been tested with water sourced from contaminated streams in Limpopo, South Africa. Following the percolation of the contaminated stream water through the metal nanoparticle (MNP) papers, the water quality of the filtered effluent was evaluated with respect to the colony counts of total coliform and E. coli bacteria, turbidity, and either silver or copper ions. Influent total coliform bacteria concentrations from the stream water in Limpopo ranged from 250 CFU per 100 mL to 1 750 000 CFU per 100 mL. With the less contaminated stream water (250–15 000 CFU per 100 mL), both AgNP and CuNP papers showed complete inactivation of the coliform bacteria. With the surface water with higher coliform bacteria levels (500 000–1 000 000 CFU per 100 mL), both the AgNP and CuNP papers showed similar results with a slightly higher bacteria reduction of log10 5.1 for the AgNP papers than the log10 4.8 reduction for the CuNP papers. E. coli results followed similar trends. For most water purification experiments, the metal release from the sheets was minimal, with values under 0.1 ppm for Ag and 1.0 ppm for Cu (the current US EPA and WHO drinking water limits for Ag and Cu, respectively). These results show good potential for the use of paper embedded with silver and/or copper nanoparticles as effective point-of-use water purifiers.
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