An elderly Indian woman drinks water from a tap in New Delhi.
An elderly Indian woman drinks water from a tap in New Delhi. - 


SCOTT JAGOW: About one in six people on the planet have unsafe drinking water. So says the World Health Organization. Water treatment plants are expensive, but researchers may have found a cheaper and easier solution. Janet Babin reports from our Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.

JANET BABIN: If it's chlorine versus bacteria in water, chlorine wins every time.

But if it's a fight between chlorine and viruses, the ultra-tiny microbes have a better shot, unless you use a lot of chlorine, and that's not good either.

Instead, researchers at the University of Delaware tried using bits of iron in sand filters. And it worked.

Professor Yan Jin at the University of Delaware was a lead researcher on the project

YAN JIN: The simplicity is the beauty of this new technology, I suppose.

Jin says the iron is inexpensive enough for developing countries. Portable home filters would cost around $20.

It could be used in the U.S. too, at treatment plants and food facilities to help cut chlorine use.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.