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Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Sawyer Water Filter

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Wilderness and outdoor activities take many of us to the farthest reaches of the globe. Adventures in the mountains, forests, oceans and deserts bring us to countries in Africa, South America, Central America, Asia, and other places, where food, water, and shelter are in scarce, if any, supply. People living in the most impoverished regions are not familiar with bottled water and toilet paper; some barely have concepts of floors and roofs. Water and waste go arm in arm in the struggle against famine, drought, starvation and disease. Of all of these, the situation that seems most amenable to remediation seems to be water, yet large scale solutions elude us or are not implemented for lack of interest, organization, finances, or political will.

Public health experts worldwide agree that one of the most pressing needs of humanity is to assure an adequate potable water supply. The current state of affairs is worst in developing countries, and accounts for hundreds of millions of cases of infectious diarrhea, resulting in millions of deaths each year. In the future, water shortages, both for drinking and for irrigation, may force migration of hundreds of millions of individuals over the course of a few decades. According to the United Nations, more than 5 billion persons on Earth may live under severe water stress by the year 2025. Currently, at least 1.1 billion persons lack adequate safe drinking water worldwide, 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation, and nearly two million children under the age of five years die each year because of one or both of these deficiencies. This condition cannot be allowed to persist, or we will continue to witness similar, or worse, human deprivation and devastation. Furthermore, struggles over water will inevitably lead to crime and armed conflict.

Clean water is essential, to drink and to wash hands. There are no doubt many solutions for water purification and disinfection of which I am not aware, but one has been brought to my attention recently that merits evaluation for the possibility that its implementation might be a godsend to persons who have access only to impure water, commonly distributed by water vendors. The method is the Sawyer Point One Filter Bucket Adapter Kit, which includes a 0.1 micron absolute hollow fiber membrane filter, adapter, and hose; a filter cleaner; a hole cutter (sturdy drill bit; a drill is not necessary for a thin-walled bucket), and filter hanger instructions.

The filter is rated to remove bacteria, spores, and cysts, such as those that cause cholera, botulism, typhoid, amoebic dysentery, traveler's diarrhea, salmonellosis, shigellosis, streptococcal infections, giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, and cyclosporiasis. According to Sawyer, more than 2,000 gallons of water per day may be passed through a single filter by gravity methods alone.

This is abstracted from the product literature: "The Sawyer Point One Filter uses medical technology developed from kidney dialysis. The filter exceeds all U.S. EPA recommendations for drinking water. Follow the directions for use and attach (the filter) to any plastic bucket or pail to yield clean water in remote locations. This biological filter does not require the use of chemicals. It cleans 5 gallons of water in under 20 minutes. The filter is cleaned by back washing it with clean water. This filter cleaning process is not required often unless one is filtering very turbid water. No replacement filters or cartridges are necessary."

For more information and to view an instructional video, visit www.SawyerPointOne.com.

In addition to this filter, Sawyer also distributes a .02 Micron Purifier, which is also available in a bucket adapter kit. This is advertised to be the first portable filtration device to physically remove viruses in addition to bacteria, which it does at a >5.5 log (99.9997%) rate. This obviously provides an even greater degree of protection against infectious agents of disease.

I have assembled the Point One Filter system, and it operates smoothly and as advertised. The potential for this system, and in particular these filters, to improve human health is enormous. With minimal instruction and maintenance requirements, the filters can be deployed in areas where other methods of disinfection are impractical or cost prohibitive. These are powerful products. I intend to carry one or more Point One or Point Zero Two bucket adapter kits with me to any location in which I am concerned about the purity of the water, and will leave them behind so that others may benefit.

Preview the 17th Annual WMS Winter Meeting, "Wilderness & Mountain Medicine," which will be held at The Canyons in Park City, Utah, February 20-25, 2009.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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