What Recent Ohio State Research Reveals About Activated Charcoal Benefits

If you keep up with recent health trends, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of activated charcoal. With uses across multiple industries, activated charcoal (also known as activated carbon) has proven to be a powerful toxin remover, sucking the bad stuff out of air, water, foods, and even the human body. A plethora of research has been conducted on activated charcoal and its many benefits, but a recent study conducted in partnership between Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI), and led by OSU’s Dr. John Lenhart, has caught the attention of scientists worldwide. In this groundbreaking work, Dr. Lenhart and his colleagues tested different types of activated charcoal and their ability to remove harmful algal bloom toxins, like microcystins and saxitoxins, from drinking water supplies from Lake Erie being treated in water treatment plants. What they found was a game-changer for the water purification industry and beyond.

Why the Study is Important

Back in 2014, elevated levels of algae in Lake Erie caused a drinking water crisis in northwest Ohio as millions were left without safe drinking water from municipal sources. In response, local and national organizations, including OSU, sought to find ways to remove algal bloom toxins from municipal drinking water supplies, and activated charcoal was high on the list of possibilities. Dr. Lenhart has conducted three studies on the subject – one study on microcystin toxins completed in 2016, another study on granular vs. powdered activated carbon products completed in 2018, and a third study on saxitoxin removal completed in 2020. By compiling the results of these studies, Dr. Lenhart has set out to offer guidance and recommendations for water treatment facilities to use activated charcoal when dealing with these dangerous toxins in public drinking water supplies.

Types of Activated Charcoal

Not all activated charcoal comes from the same substances. In the study, powdered and granular activated carbon made from wood, coconut shells, bituminous coal and a coal blend were all tested to determine which type, or mix of types, best removed algal bloom toxins from Lake Erie’s freshwater supplies as the water passes through local water treatment facilities. What researchers found was that there are significant differences in each type of activated charcoal’s ability to remove algal bloom toxins, with coconut shells removing the least amount of the toxins microcystin-LR and saxitoxins and wood-based carbon removing the most, especially with microcystin-LR. This is mainly due to differences in pore sizes in the different carbon media, with wood-based carbon having larger pores that allow larger microcystin-LR toxin particles to pass through, and coconut shells having much smaller pores that only allow the passage of saxitoxin particles but almost no microcystin-LR particles.

Why the Study is Important

The lessons learned in this research can be applied far beyond just water treatment for municipalities. With this new knowledge, all areas of water treatment can be improved, from entire sewer systems to your home water filtration pitcher. Governments and industries can implement the optimal activated charcoal media in their water filtration processes to keep stable, clean drinking water available to all, while consumers can opt for at-home products that also use this superior carbon. For companies that offer water filtration and purification equipment and services, this new research will influence their practices and offerings for years to come, making water safer across all industries.

Optimize Your Water Filtration With Wood-Based Activated Charcoal

Dr. Lenhart’s studies provide a clear answer to which activated carbon media is best for water treatment plants dealing with algal bloom toxins – wood-based. Its larger pore size allows it to trap toxin particles large and small, offering superior protection to vital drinking water systems. Never again will Ohio residents need to worry about losing access to safe drinking water once Dr. Lenhart’s recommendations for water treatment along Lake Erie are in place, and hopefully his and his team’s work will improve water filtration and purification far beyond just Ohio.

Puragen Activated Carbons offers activated carbon filtration and purification equipment and services for all industries, including markets in air purification, water purification, automotive, food & beverage, grocery, pharmaceuticals, and more.

Sarah Ross