Friday, June 26, 2009

Iodine Water Treatment Banned in Europe; Alternative Water Purification Methods

Some of you may already know, as of October 26, 2009 the EU has banned the sale of iodine water purification drops or tablets.  The European Union has in it’s infinite wisdom issued a “Biocides Directive” (detailed bureaucratic document at this link) that prohibits the sale of iodine for water treatment or disinfectant in any of the countries in the EU.  Iodine will still continue to be legal in the United States.  The U.S. Center for Disease Control (link) has for a long time had a warning out about using iodine for wilderness water treatment.  Iodine can be extremely dangerous if used in incorrect quantities, if used over an extended period of time (more than a few weeks) or if pregnant or have a thyroid disease. The CDC recommends against using iodine as your main water purification/treatment method on a multi-week long distance backpacking trip.

There are several alternative methods of treating water when hiking in the wilderness.

  1. Boil the water.  Boiling water is the best method for making water safe to drink. Boiling water will kill bacterial, parasitic, and viral causes of diarrhea. Adding a pinch of salt to each quart will improve the taste. Although this is the safest method, most backpackers don’t use this as their normal water purification method due to the added weight of the fuel required and the time needed to boil and cool the water.
  2. Water filters. According to the CDC “Certain types of portable water filters can also remove some types of infectious agents from drinking water. However, most of the portable filters on the market do not effectively remove viruses, thus chemical disinfection of water is needed after filtering with such filters to make the water safer for drinking. Some portable water filters designed to remove parasites (Giardia/Cryptosporidium) have an "absolute” pore sizes of 0.1 to 1-micrometer and, therefore, may also remove most diarrhea-causing bacteria.  Viruses are smaller than 0.1 micron and will NOT be removed by filters with a pore size of 0.1 or larger. To kill viruses that may pass through these filters, ..use a chemical disinfection method.”  Many light weight backpacking water filters are available, check REI.com .
  3. Chemical treatment. There are three primary types of chemical disinfection used for water purification.  Effectiveness rates stated here are based on CDC study (CDC Water Treatment Study).
    1. Iodine; Iodine is not effective against Cryptosporidium.  It does have a low to medium effectiveness on Giardia and a high effectiveness on bacteria and viruses (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli).  If water is extremely cold, less than 5° C (41° F), an attempt should be made to warm the water, and contact time (standing time between adding a chemical disinfectant to the water and drinking the water) should be increased.
    2. Chlorine Dioxide; Chlorine dioxide has a a low to medium effectiveness on Cryptosporidium and a high effectiveness on bacteria and viruses (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli).  The Aquamira Water Treatment is liquid chlorine dioxide treatment that purifies water in 30 minutes.  Alternatively, tablets can be used made by both Aquamira and Katadyn.  Tablets take about 4 hours to be effective.
    3. Chlorine; Chlorine, similar to iodine is not effective against Cryptosporidium.  It does have a low to medium effectiveness on Giardia and a high effectiveness on bacteria and viruses (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli).
  4. Ultraviolet Light.  Ultraviolet light can be used as a method against some microorganisms.  The technology requires pre-filtering due to to its dependence on the water not being cloudy.  The SteriPEN Adventurer Water Purifier is one of these ultralight ultraviolet water purifiers. Independent testing on specific systems is limited.
  5. MIOX systems. These use a salt solution and electrical current.  The MSR MIOX Purifier is an example of this.  Generally kills viruses and bacteria in 15 minutes.

More information on water purification will soon be available on BackpackBasecamp.com


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  5. looking for an alternative water purifier?
    just wana share the best water purifier i've tried and i'm sticking to is berkey water filter. Instantly purifies water from any source including stagnant water.

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