Water is a necessity of life. Unfortunately, however, water can carry infectious agents and pollutants that are harmful to people’s health. Waterborne illnesses, caused by bacteria and other micro- organisms, are a serious threat to human health worldwide. In addition industrial pollutants often find their way into waterways that people use for cooking, washing, bathing and drinking.
In order to protect public health, water is often treated to remove potential pathogens and pollutants. Many different chemicals and processes are used in water treatment. One of the more common chemicals used to treat water is chlorine. Chlorination is often used to kill pathogens and potentially harmful or nuisance micro-organisms. For example, chlorine is commonly added to swimming pools to keep the water clean. That is the reason why water in swimming pools can be painful if it gets in the eyes, and why people shower after coming out of the swimming pool.
In the last thirty or forty years, there has been research into using ferrate (IV) for water treatment. Even though ferrate treatment is not used as much as other forms of water treatment, researchers and scientists have reported that ferrate is a highly effective and environmentally friendly way to treat water.
In the mid-1980s. T.D. Waite and K.A. Gray reported that laboratory experiments with the use of ferrate (IV) for wastewater treatment had provided favorable results. In their experiments, ferrate had a high potential for oxidation. Ferrate reacted with organic compounds and pollutants in the water, oxidizing them. Ferrate also coagulated substances that were suspended in the water (1).
Ferrate can act as a disinfectant, neutralizing many different micro-organisms that live in water. Treating water with ferrate does not cause any cancer-causing by-products, so ferrate treatment is environmentally friendly.
In one experiment, researchers used ferrate to treat water samples from around the world. Ferrate killed 100 % of coliforms in the water samples (2). Ferrate treatments are less affected by the pH (level of acidity) of water than chlorine treatments are. In addition, chlorine treatments require higher doses than ferrate to be effective. Ferrate was more effective in killing e. coli (escherichia coli), one of the most common and dangerous coliform bacteria, than chlorine was. Ferrate treatment was also able to kill bacteria that was resistant to chlorination (3).
Water is one of the main vectors for the spread of infectious diseases. Because of this, effective water treatment is needed to prevent the spread of disease. In addition to dangerous bacteria and other micro-organisms, water is often also contaminated by industrial pollutants.
In order to make sure drinking water is safe, water treatment is necessary. Ferrate (IV) is another method of treating water to make it safe for human consumption.
(1) Waite & Gray, p. 407.
(2) Coliforms are the bacteria that are found in people's and animal’s colons. When these bacteria enter the food and water supply, they become a serious health problem.
(3) Banse et al., p. 113-114.
Gerhard Banse et al. (editors). Assessing Societal Implications of Converging Technological Development. Berlin: Edition sigma, 2007.
T.D. Waite & K.A. Gray, "Oxidation and coagulation of wastewater effluent utilizing ferrate (VI) ion" in Lucjan Pawlowski, Alain J. Verdier and W.J. Lacy (editors). Chemistry for protection of the environment. New York: Elsevier Science Publishing Company, Inc., 1984.