Academic journal article Human Ecology

Living by the Book: Chemist Theresa Dankovich's Filters Could Save Millions of Lives

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Living by the Book: Chemist Theresa Dankovich's Filters Could Save Millions of Lives

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

You can't drink The Drinkable Book, and if you try to read it, you'll see there's no plot. But for Theresa Dankovich '03, it's an important chapter in helping the world's 1.1 billion people who lack safe drinking water.

As a Cornell undergrad, Dankovich studied textiles and fiber science, focusing her senior project on comparisons between naturally-colored green and brown cotton. That led to a doctorate at McGill University, where she switched from cotton to paper and achieved her nano-breakthrough that was the source of The Drinkable Book.

"Since Montreal has such a big pulp and paper industry, people at McGill have been researching different specialty applications for paper," says Dankovich, whose mother, Evelyn, is a 1967 Human Ecology graduate. "Mine was looking at anti-microbial coatings, so I got interested in using paper as a water filter. That's how it started, and it worked when I tested it in the lab--but I wanted to see if it would work in the real world, too."

The next year, as a postdoc at the University of Virginia, she tested the paper in South Africa, and with help from the nonprofit WATERisLIFE, she's tested it in Ghana, too. It works, and as 3.4 million people die each year from waterborne illness, it's hard to overstate these filters' potential for saving lives. …

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