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Dr. Antonio Lara and Robert Marquez
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico
"Preserving the Traditional Brick Kiln Way of Life in Mexico While Reducing Air Pollution Using Innovative Low Technology"
Category: General Conservation; Air Quality: 1999
Many of the severely economically disadvantaged people in Third World countries make their living by turning mud into bricks, however the process used to fire the bricks produces black, billowing clouds of smoke which are emitted from kiln chimneys for 10-12 hours per firing which happens every two to three weeks. This causes serious air pollution. Dr. Lara's graduate student, Robert Marquez, has designed a prototype dual kiln system with a filtering/condensation section between the two kilns where the pollutants are absorbed onto the clay filter while others partition into the water that condenses in the system. This system has proven to reduce carcinogenic and other toxic compounds dramatically in preliminary tests. Developing a long-term solution to remove the pollutants from the kiln chimney before they reach the air will provide a healthier environment. The proposed technology will clean the air, and will certainly be implemented because costs are minimal and the brickmakers can easily adapt the technology.
After completing his Lindbergh Grant project, Marquez was invited to demonstrate his kiln project as part of the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 2000. Marquez then became a Visiting Faculty Researcher in Environmental Engineering at the University of Virginia where explored how clay can be used to purify water, and worked on a project in Ghana that would use the kiln technology for safe disposal of syringes. Approximately 300-400 traditional brick kilns operate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Throughout the border region, brick kiln operators use readily available, low-cost waste materials as primary sources of fuel for brick making. Typically, these include plastics, wood, and discarded tires, which release high concentrations of toxic chemicals into the air. Marquez's kiln applies a cost effective, innovative approach for capturing brick kiln pollution before it is released int the atmosphere. Toxic air pollutants have been reduced by 90-99% along the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of Robert Marquez's new kiln design.
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