Apr 25, 2001

New Disinfection Method Improves Drinking Water in Developing Countries

A new disinfection system, developed by The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), has been proven effective in making water in developing countries germ-free — leaving it clear and drinkable.
According to public health experts, these benefits might encourage more people in developing countries to purify their drinking water — and, as a result, reduce illness caused by water-borne diseases.
These findings, from a just-completed study, were presented yesterday at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) annual Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference in Atlanta.
The research was conducted among 100 households in Guatemala by CDC epidemiologists Josefa Rangel, M.D., and Steve Luby, M.D., as well as researchers from the Medical Entomology Research and Training Unit (MERTU) in Guatemala and P&G.
This new product is a two-step system. First, the consumer mixes a small packet of a powder in a vessel of water. The powder contains both a flocculant, which seizes and separates contaminants in the water, and chlorine. After stirring, contaminants in the water fall to the bottom, forming a visible sediment. These contaminants can include dirt, pesticides, toxic heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead, as well as bacteria, viruses and protozoa that are resistant to chlorine alone.
Next, the consumer pours the contents of that vessel through a filtering cloth into a larger container for clean storage and dispensing. A level of chlorine is left behind to ensure cleaner drinking water.
P&G scientists developed this new system after consulting with the CDC and other public health experts, and they continue to work together on further research.
One hundred households from four neighboring Guatemalan villages were randomly selected for the study, which ran for four weeks in late 2000.
Researchers measured bacterial contaminants and turbidity levels — in both the source and treated household waters.
The results? The new P&G system purified water as effectively as chlorine alone, but without the negative taste and smell attributes often caused by chlorine misuse — a common deterrence to purification in developing countries. Also, those who used the P&G system were twice as likely to judge their water as clear compared to persons who used chlorine alone.
Based on the encouraging initial results, P&G will open a learning market in a developing country soon. The company expects the new system will be affordable, even for low-income consumers.