Ceramic Water Filtration Provides an Inexpensive Solution to Clean Water in Rural Mexico

Story at-a-glance -

  • I am very proud of our involvement with CATIS-Mexico, which is working to provide pure water to rural areas in Mexico
  • The filters used by CATIS-Mexico are made in a simple hand mold using locally available clay and burn-out material (such as waste sawdust)
  • One CATIS filter produces about 24 liters of water a day, requires little maintenance, and lasts two to three years.
  • The next phase of these simple, inexpensive filters incorporates biochar – a charcoal that absorbs heavy metals
  • This combination unit helps to remove pathogens along with dangerous components in the water like arsenic and fluoride

By Dr. Mercola

I’m very excited to be partnering with an organization named CATIS-Mexico. CATIS-Mexico is a non-profit organization based in San Miguel de Allende, in Guanajuato State, in central Mexico. CATIS-Mexico’s mission is to work in partnership with economically limited communities to improve the lives of the people in these communities, and to help develop their health, economies, and sustainability of the environment by providing training and technical assistance.

The Independence Watershed, in Guanajuato State in the heart of Mexico, has struggled for decades due to overexploitation and pollution. The region began drilling and extracting water at unsustainable rates starting in the 1940s. This has left the groundwater and surface water highly contaminated with fluoride and arsenic, and is now considered to be in a permanent state of decline.

What is happening is that because of the effects of overdrilling and extraction, naturally occurring minerals are being concentrated to toxic levels. The levels of fluoride are more than 12 times the allowable level in some communities. Levels of bacteria in the water are also high.

Working to Improve the Safety of Drinking Water

CATIS-Mexico is committed to help provide resources and training to communities in these regions with access to safe and clean drinking water. One of their major projects and successes has been the development of ceramic filters, which can provide clean water for drinking, free of bacterial contamination.

The filters used by CATIS-Mexico are made in a simple hand mold using locally available clay and burn-out material (such as waste sawdust). They are fired in a kiln and then treated with a colloidal silver solution to kill pathogens.

One CATIS filter produces about 24 liters of water a day, requires little maintenance, and lasts two to three years. It can reduce the cost of potable water from $0.10 a liter to $0.001 a liter, which is 100 times less expensive.1

water filter

The intent is not just to develop these filters, but also to provide training and resources for local communities to set up their own kilns and make their own filters, and in the process, create sustainable micro-businesses. Dylan Terrell, the executive director of CATIS-Mexico, is one of the volunteers working tirelessly in this endeavor. When I visited CATIS-Mexico, outside of San Miguel de Allende last year, I met with Dylan and others to see their work first-hand.

The ceramic filters are making a great impact on the safety of drinking water in these local communities in central Mexico. However, the clay filters, in and of themselves, are not able to remove fluoride from the water. CATIS-Mexico is interested in technologies that can be coupled with these filters to also remove fluoride.

The Next Phase: Adding Biochar to Remove Fluoride

CATIS-Mexico is working with bone char and biochar– a charcoal that absorbs heavy metals--which can be created locally and which may help remove pathogens along with dangerous components in the water like arsenic and fluoride.

Researchers at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, Illinois are collaborating with CATIS-Mexico to develop these technologies

CATIS-Mexico has also documented the horrible effect of fluoride on children’s teeth, including distorting and decomposing teeth at an early age. This is the same fluoride that is intentionally added to water supplies in the US and Canada in order to “protect” teeth. Additionally, CATIS-Mexico has also demonstrated the disastrous effects of fluoride and arsenic water contamination on children’s IQ.

I have seen drawings made by children from the region compared to drawings made by children in other areas where contamination of groundwater is not an issue. In other regions, children’s drawings of people look normal – stick people with houses, the sun, and the ground. In the Guanajuato region, sadly, the drawings are distorted and not cohesive. The detrimental effects of fluoride contamination are affecting the future of these communities.

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Working on Solutions: How You Can Help

Our Chief Research Scientist, Dr. Michael Lelah, has been working with Melissa Lenczewski. Melissa is the Director of the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy/ENVS, and she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at NIU. Melissa and her students are actively involved in a number of projects in partnership with CATIS-Mexico.

One of her projects is to find ways to reduce fluoride concentration levels for drinking water for communities in Guanajuato region. Melissa and her students visit CATIS-Mexico a couple of times a year in order to conduct experiments and learn how to apply their lab experiments to real life in the local communities.

We have been working with Melissa and her students on technologies for binding fluoride ions during filtering of the water and looking at incorporating binding agents into the ceramic filters in order to make them more efficient at removing fluoride.

As mentioned, as another approach, we are looking at bone char and biochar – pyrolized (burnt) carbon, which may be able to reduce fluoride levels as well. This is a combination of basic scientific study, taking into account the practical limitations of being able to transfer the technology to the local communities – the filters have to be made locally and inexpensively, and be easy to implement for households.

As we recognize Fluoride Awareness Week and focus our attention on activities to remove the fluoride intentionally added to many US cities’ drinking water, let’s also recognize the devastating effects of naturally occurring fluoride on other communities, and the work being done by organizations and researchers to remove this toxic substance from drinking water.

Your support is greatly needed, and I encourage you to support these organizations:

  1. To support the water-filtration efforts in rural Mexico, please donate directly to CATIS-Mexico
  2. To support efforts to eradicate the addition of fluoride to drinking water supplies in the US and Canada, please donate to the Fluoride Action Network (FAN)

+ Sources and References