December 1, 2006 Industrial toxicologists at a non-profit venture founded by Procter & Gamble developed PUR, a water purifier that combines a flocculant -- which separates particles and organisms from water -- and a disinfectant that kills microbes after 30 minutes. The water is then filtered through a cloth to remove the debris. PUR is intended as a cost-effective way of treating contaminated water in developing countries -- where this kills an estimated 5,000 children a day -- as well as during a disaster such as hurricane Katrina.
In the United States, with just the turn of a knob, clean, drinkable water is right at our fingertips. That's not the case in many parts of the world. But new technology is making it possible for people worldwide to have drinkable water ... With a stir of a powerful powder.
You wouldn't drink dirty water straight out of a river. But in developing nations, tap water is not a choice.
"People have to share their drinking water sources with their animals. People many times drink from open ponds or streams," Greg Allgood of P&G Children's Safe Drinking Water Program based in Cincinnati, tells DBIS.
...And that leads to deadly water-borne illnesses. Allgood, an industrial toxicologist, is director of P&G's Children's Safe Drinking Water Program, a non-profit venture for the consumer-products giant.
"We need to rapidly address the crisis of so many children dying from unsafe drinking water," he says. One packet of P&G's PUR Purifier of Water can clean about two-and-a-half gallons of water as clean as your tap water. Allgood says the packets contain iron sulphate and calcium hypochlorite, which kill bacteria and viruses while removing parasites and heavy metals.
The packets are being used in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Pakistan and are helping save lives from some of the most deadly diseases.
PUR doesn't have U.S. approval yet. Meanwhile, P&G is working with other non-profit agencies to expand the distribution of PUR into other African nations. On the open market, packets sell for around 10 cents apiece
BACKGROUND: Chemists have developed a powerful household water purification system that puts the cleansing power of an industrial water treatment plant into a container the size of a ketchup packet. The researchers have shown that the tiny packet, which acts as a chemical filter, can be added to highly contaminated water to dramatically reduce pathogen-induced diarrhea.
HOW IT WORKS: Called "PUR Purifier of Water," the system is manufactured by Procter & Gamble. It consists of a packet containing a grayish powder composed of a number of chemicals that can collectively remove contaminants within minutes of adding them to water. The packet is added to a large container of impure water, stirred, filtered through a cloth to remove impurities, and then allowed to sit for 20 minutes to produce clear, safe drinking water. The main active ingredients are calcium hypochlorite (bleach) and ferric sulfate. The first kills a wide range of deadly pathogens, while ferric sulfate is a particle binder: it binds to particles of dirt and disease-causing pathogens that aren't killed by the bleach. The packets can kill the water-borne pathogens that cause cholera, typhoid, and dysentery, for example, and remove toxic metals like lead, arsenic and mercury, as well as dangerous pesticides like DDT and PCB.
ADVANTAGES: The PUR packets are very efficient: a single packet can decontaminate 2-1/2 gallons of drinking water, sufficient to sustain a typical household for two to three days. Unlike large stationary purification systems, PUR packets are small and portable, enabling them to be easily used in remote locations and emergency situations. This makes them promising for boosting water safety after natural disasters, like earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, which can compromise water quality quite suddenly.
A GLOBAL CRISIS: Third world countries in particular are in need of simple, safe and effective decontamination systems. Boiling is the only readily available method, but it must be done properly, and in many parts of the world, water isn't cleaned at all. In randomized controlled trials conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the chemical packets reduced the incidence of diarrhea by 50 percent.
The American Society for Microbiology and the American Water Works Association contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.