May 15, 2014
New book can filter up to four years’ worth of drinking water
by Nick Davies
The latest innovation merging literary and food-related technologies is here, and unlike novelty items we’ve discussed on on MobyLives in the past (like the edible lasagna book and the fun-with knives book), this one has a serious purpose: to provide clean drinking water to communities where it isn’t easy to come by.
Lily Hay Newman writes for Slate about the “Drinkable Book,” a new product being put forth by clean water advocacy group WaterisLife, along with ad agency DDB, backed by research from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia, and led by Teri Dankovich of McGill University. Dankovich is the one who developed a way to coat silver nanoparticles — which attract bacteria and toxins — on cardstock. This technology allows you to pour contaminated water onto the pages, where the nanoparticles latch onto contaminants, and get clean, drinkable water on the other end.
In a video about the project (which you can see in full below), Dankovich says, “After passing water through our filter, we found a reduction of greater than 99.9% in bacteria count, which is comparable to the tap water in this country” (presumably meaning Canada, as she’s based at McGill).
The particle coating gives the pages of the Drinkable Book their distinctive orange color, and the text is printed with food-grade ink that’s safe to digest; Bowe House Press in Virginia worked alongside WaterisLife to ensure that the presses they used to print the books were pristine. Each page of the book can be torn out for use, providing up to thirty days of clean water for a single person, and the entire book can last them four years. In addition to being sustainable, the book is remarkably cheap to produce—WaterisLife says that the paper is “by far the cheapest option on the market.”
Beyond the purification process, the Drinkable Book aims to educate people in developing countries about safe water habits. Each page has advice printed on it that most of us would take for granted, in English on the top half and a local language on the bottom — in Swahili, for example, for Kenya, the first testing ground for the book. The ultimate goal, Newman says, is to have editions of the Drinkable Book in all thirty-three countries where WaterisLife operates.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.