September 9, 2013
Water-Purification Plant The Size Of A Fast-Food Ketchup Packet Saves Lives
An ambitious partnership among more than 100 organizations and governments led by Procter & Gamble's (P&G's) nonprofit program, Children's Safe Drinking Water (CSDW), has helped provide more than 6 billion quarts of clean drinking water to families in developing countries, saving an estimated 32,000 lives. And they're just getting started.
CSDW Manager Allison Tummon Kamphuis, R.N., M.B.A., today described the organization's latest accomplishments and future goals at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. The meeting, which features almost 7,000 presentations on new discoveries in chemistry and other topics, continues here through Thursday.Tummon Kamphuis explained that diarrhea from contaminated drinking water is second only to pneumonia as a cause of childhood deaths worldwide. More than 2,000 children die every day as a result of diarrheal illnesses. To reduce that toll, P&G in 2012 pledged to deliver 2 billion quarts of clean water every year to developing countries by 2020, which would save one life every hour. An ambitious goal for a young program started in 2004, but CSDW is well on its way to achieving it by wide distribution of water-purification sachets the size of a fast-food ketchup packet.
"The real key to us achieving numbers like that and providing that much water and having the estimated health impact that we report is really partnership," said Tummon Kamphuis.
CSDW reached a milestone in May, when the packets, called the P&G Purifier of Water, produced their 6 billionth quart of sparkling clean water.
The foundation of CSDW's work dates back to the mid-1990s, when P&G partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find a simple, inexpensive water-purification technology that could be used anywhere in the world. By the early 2000s, they had perfected the water-purification packets, which transform cloudy, brown water into crystal-clear, drinkable water that meets all the requirements for drinking water.
"We call it a mini-water-treatment plant in a packet," Tummon Kamphuis said. The powder essentially performs the job of a municipal treatment facility but on a much smaller — and portable — scale.
The chemistry is impressive, she said, yet the application is impressively simple. It involves pouring the contents of one packet, which weighs less than an ounce, into a bucket of 10 quarts of water and stirring. Dirt, parasites and other material drop to the bottom, as this video demonstrates, and disease-causing microbes die.
To meet the program goal of saving one life every hour by 2020, P&G has established a three-pronged strategy, with one step already complete. In November 2012, they finished building a new facility in Singapore to ramp up production of the water-purifier packets. Additionally, CSDW, which has worked in 71 countries, plans to expand distribution even further. They also plan to invest more in raising public awareness of the need for clean drinking water.
An ACS program, Coins for Cleaner Water, supports CSDW's efforts. The P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, a 501c3 program, will receive the Howard Fawcett Award from the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety.
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