A filtering system using algae and bacteria has been developed by Australian scientists to clean up drinking water contaminated by arsenic.
The bacteria used is harvested from sites that are already contaminated by heavy metals, so they've naturally developed the ability to fight high toxicity.
The filtering system breakthrough was made by researchers at the Co-operative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRCCARE).
It was released at the CleanUp 2013 Conference underway in Melbourne.
Arsenic is a highly toxic poison that has infiltrated drinking water in 70 countries worldwide, including developed countries like the United States.
Scientists from the CRCCARE say around 137 million people are poisoned every day by arsenic in their food and water.
Lead researcher Mr Mezbaul Bahar says conventional methods of removing arsenic use chemicals, which has its own negative impacts, and is high cost.
"Scientists have also used bacteria in the past but these bacteria need carbon to grow, so it's unsustainable unless we keeping feeding it (the bacteria)."
Another CRCCARE scientist who worked on the project, Professor Mallavurapu, says the bacteria recovered from the contaminated soil was ideal, but it, too, needed a sustainable food source.
"Microalgae only need sunlight to sustain themselves and generate energy. Together with water, they'll grow and produce carbon and oxygen to support the bacteria.
"Then when the bacteria break down the organic matter produced by the microalgae, and from contaminated water they produce carbon dioxide.
"This in turn is used to feed the microalgae, so it's a wonderful partnership."
Arsenic is common and occurs naturally, including in many minerals including nickel and gold sulphides in the form of compounds such as arsenopyrite.