A new “Drinkable Book” has Pages that turn Raw Sewage into Drinking Water

As many as 358 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have reliable access to drinking water. Now, researchers have come up with a book on water safety whose pages can be used to filter water.

Trials done in 25 contaminated water sites in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Haiti, and Bangladesh showed the book, which contains tiny particles of copper and silver, could eliminate over 99% of bacteria, according to results of the project unveiled at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting that began yesterday (Aug. 16th).

Teri Dankovich, from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, who has been leading the research on what she calls “the drinkable book” said in one trial, they tested a ditch contaminated with sewage that contained millions of bacteria. “Even with highly contaminated water sources like that one, we can achieve 99.9% purity with our silver-and copper-nanoparticle paper, bringing bacteria levels comparable to those of US drinking water,” she said.

Each page is embedded with silver and copper nano-particles. The pages contain instructions in English and the local language; water is poured and filtered through the pages themselves. One page can purify up to 100 liters (about 26 gallons) of water and one book can supply one person’s drinking water needs for about four years, the researchers said.

China’s Untrained Firefighters make Disasters like Tianjin Worse

More than 1,000 firefighters were dispatched after a series of massive explosions killed dozens and left hundreds injured in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin on Aug. 12. Tragically, some of these firefighters, which included contract workers just 17 years old, might have made the situation worse.

The culprit of the blasts is Ruihai International Logistics, which handles“dangerous chemicals.” Chinese officials have found 700 tons of sodium cyanide at two locations near the blasts stored by Ruihai, reportedly 70 times the permitted quantity. Calcium carbide, another chemical known stored at the site, can emit flammable gases when it becomes wet.

Firefighters from the the Tianjin Port Group, a government-bureau-turned state-owned company that serves as the main operator of the port of Tianjin, were the first to arrive at the scene and hosed down the blaze with water, which caused more blasts, according to reports in Chinese media, including well-respected business newspaper Caixin reported (link in Chinese). After rescue work continued for around an hour, the blasts took place, Caixin reported.

Several firefighters of the company now treated in hospital told the Beijing News (link in Chinese) that they did not know the fire was caused by chemicals. But rather than dying down when they wet it, the fire “became bigger and bigger,” one told the newspaper. Firefighters said they were barely trained to use foam and sand though the two are a must in dealing with chemical fires.

“No one told them the fire involved chemicals,” a firefighter who was off duty the night of the explosions told the New York Times.

Once they arrived, the firefighters should have gotten instruction on the compositions of hazardous materials from Ruihai, and followed these to put out the fires, an anonymous person from a forwarding company who do business with Ruihai told Caixin.