Shedding the Lead

By CAROLINE CHEN

Cellulose Amigos is an initiative started by Jericho High School students passionate about solving water crises around the world and in our local community. The group—comprised of Shruthi Shekar, Caroline Chen, David Xu, Kristen Yang, Marguerite Li, Mutahara Bhuiyan, Ernest Wang, and Dhruba Podder—promotes a cellulose-based adsorption method to remediate heavy metals such as cobalt and lead from our water sources.

The mission of Cellulose Amigos is to spread awareness of our water crisis, provide tips and tricks to conserve and clean water, and share the cellulose-based water treatment method we have researched. After we learned that the levels of lead in our school district, as well as in twenty other school districts on Long Island, were over the safety threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we developed a passion to remediate heavy metals from contaminated water sources around the world. As such, we conducted research over the summer regarding the potential of cellulose in removing heavy metals in water, and were rewarded with optimistic results. Our team specifically investigated the performance of a novel material developed just this year called nitro-oxidized cellulose. What makes it novel is the production method, nitro-oxidation—a one-step process that also does not require as many chemicals as current processes do, making it more sustainable than currently used techniques.

Cellulose Amigos member Shruthi Shekar educates students on the groups mission for lead-free water.

As the summer wound down and the school year started, we learned of the devastating consequences of the series of severe hurricanes that led not only to loss of lives, homes, and loved ones, but also of clean water sources. The flooding caused by the recent hurricanes led to contamination of the affected water sources with industrial waste, heavy waste, and other harmful contaminants. This overwhelming discovery furthered our passion to spread awareness about the dangers of these water crises. In order to raise awareness about the situations and sufferings of the billions of people around the world with no access to clean water sources, we presented at LI CLAS Arts, a local afterschool program, and a Hurricane Harvey charity event run by a Jericho family to spread awareness about contaminated flood waters. We also conducted interviews at our local public institutions to gauge the understanding of the public of current water issues, and gathered data that we used to create tailor-made information packets for the public to enjoy. Through interactive activities and surveys, the Cellulose Amigos have gained supporters of all ages throughout the world.

If you would like to support us and learn more about the importance of the water crises around the world, please visit our website  or follow us on Instagram (@celluloseamigos), Facebook (@celluloseamigos.clean), and Pinterest (@celluloseamigos). Join our quest for clean water, and get ready to “shed the lead with a dose of cellulose!”

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