Quantcast
Science
www.youtube.com

Moved by Flint Water Crisis, 11-Year-Old Scientist Invents Lead-Detecting Device

An 11-year-old girl was given a top award after inventing "Tethys," a sensor that detects lead levels in water.

Gitanjali Rao of Lone Tree, Colorado won the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and a $25,000 prize for the innovation, which she said was inspired by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.


"I started following the Flint water crisis two years ago when I was nine," Rao told PEOPLE. "And I was surprised that there wasn't a fast, reliable process for testing water for lead."

Rao also pointed out to Reuters that lead contamination is not just an issue in Flint, but in "over 5,000 water systems in the U.S. alone."

She noted that "thousands of adults and children [are] exposed to the harmful effects of lead in water. So it's a pretty big deal out there today."

So how does the device work? "Tethys, the Greek goddess of fresh water, is a lead detection tool," she explained to the news service. "What you do is first dip a disposable cartridge, which can easily be removed and attached to the core device in the water you wish to test. Once you do that, that's basically the manual part. Then you just pull out an app on your phone and check your status and it looks like the water in this container is safe. So that's just very simple, about like a 10 to 15 second process."

Gitanjali said she has always had an interest in science.

"I've always been interested in science because it's all about providing real world ways to solve problems in the world," she told PEOPLE. .

The young inventor plans to put her prize money to her college fund. "I'd like to go to MIT," she said, "and study epidemiology or genetics." She also wants to improve her device to make it ready for public use.

Flint's water troubles began in April 2014, when an unelected state official switched the city's main water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. The highly corrosive river water caused old pipes to degrade and leach lead into the water system. The water crisis has been linked to dangerous lead exposure in Flint's population as well as an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that killed at least 12 people.

While the city's water quality continues to improve, federal regulators still recommend that residents do not drink unfiltered tap water.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular

5 Recent Victories for the Oceans

By Andy Sharpless

In the last several weeks, Oceana and its allies won five important victories that will help protect biodiversity and increase abundance in our seas:

Keep reading... Show less
Snow in Atlanta on Jan. 17, 2018. Lisa Panero / Flickr

Climate Change and Weather Extremes: Both Heat and Cold Can Kill

By Garth Heutel, David Molitor and Nolan Miller

Climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of some types of extreme weather in the U.S., particularly heat waves. Last summer the U.S. Southwest experienced life-threatening heat waves, which are especially dangerous for elderly people and other vulnerable populations.

More recently, record-setting cold temperatures engulfed much of the country during the first week of 2018. This arctic blast has been blamed for dozens of deaths. Some scientists believe that Arctic warming may be a factor in this type of persistent cold spell, although others question this connection.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cristian L. Ricardo

One Year Into the Trump Administration, Where Do We Stand?

By John R. Platt

What a long, strange year it's been.

Saturday, Jan. 20 marks the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration officially taking office after a long and arduous election. It's a year that has seen seemingly unending attacks on science and the environment, along with a rise in hateful rhetoric and racially motivated policies. But it's almost been met by the continuing growth of the efforts to resist what the Trump administration has to offer.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Chris J. Ratcliffe / Greenpeace

Greenpeace Slams Coca-Cola Plastic Announcement as ‘Dodging the Main Issue’

By Louise Edge

Friday Greenpeace criticized Coca-Cola's new global plastics plan for failing to address the urgency of ocean plastic pollution.

The long awaited policy from the world's largest soft drink company featured a series of measures weaker than those previously announced for Europe and the UK.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
The two young Iowa vandals knocked over 50 hives and exposed the bees to deadly winter temperatures. Colby Stopa / Flickr

Two Boys Charged With Killing Half a Million Honeybees in Iowa

Two boys were charged with killing more than a half million bees at a honey business in Iowa last month.

"All of the beehives on the honey farm were destroyed and approximately 500,000 bees perished in the frigid temperatures," Sioux City police said in a release.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy

Are Microwaves Really as Bad for the Environment as Cars?

According to many headlines blared around the Internet this week, "microwaves are as damaging to the environment as cars." But this misleading information, based on a new study from the University of Manchester, hopefully doesn't make you feel guilty about zapping your next Hot Pocket.

The research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found that microwave ovens across the European Union generate as much carbon dioxide as nearly 7 million cars and consume an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour of electricity per year. Okay, that sounds like a lot. But also consider that there are about 130 million microwaves in Europe and some 291 million vehicles on its roads.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
GMO

Monsanto's Roundup Destroys Healthy Microbes in Humans and in Soils

By Julie Wilson

We're only beginning to learn the importance of healthy gut bacteria to our overall health—and the relationship between healthy soil and the human microbiome.

We know that the human microbiome, often referred to as our "second brain," plays a key role in our health, from helping us digest the food we eat, to boosting our brain function and regulating our immune systems.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke refused to meet with National Park System Advisory Board members last year, prompting most of them to quit. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

From National Parks to the EPA, Trump Administration Stiff-Arms Science Advisers

By Elliott Negin

The Trump administration's testy relationship with science reminds me of that old saying: Advice is least heeded when most needed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!