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For Clean Drinking Water, Take a Page Out of This Book

The Drinkable Book The Drinkable Book (Photo: Brian Gartside/pAge Drinking Paper)
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The latest scientific advance in clean water technology comes right out of a book — literally.

“The Drinkable Book” holds tear-out pages that act as water filters. The filters contain nanoparticles of silver or copper, which kill bacteria and other bugs in the water as they pass through. The pages also contain information about clean water written in English and the language native to where they’re being used.

When contaminated water is poured through the sturdy filter, the resulting water is as safe to drink as U.S. tap water, researchers say. Though tiny amounts of the metals leach into the water, researchers say it’s well below World Health Organization (WHO) safety limits.

The BBC reports the paper successfully removed more than 99 percent of bacteria in trials at 25 contaminated water sources in South Africa, Ghana and Bangladesh.

Related: 7 Signs You Need a Drink (of Water!)

Theresa Dankovich, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, developed and tested the technology, which is inexpensive and easy to transport, and formed a nonprofit company, pAge Drinking Paper. One book could filter one person’s water supply for four years, Dankovich told the BBC.

According to the WHO, 663 million people worldwide lack access to clean water. Six to eight million people die each year due to water-related diseases, per the United Nations.

Dankovich hopes to get the water filters into the hands of villagers and local residents to see what the actual impact will be, she tells the BBC. And she has partnered with two charities — Water is Life and iDE — for more field trials. “Dankovich's work with iDE in Bangladesh has explored whether a filter, holding one of the book pages, could be fitted into a "kolshi" — the traditional water container used by many Bangladeshis,” the BBC reports. She also hopes to step up production of the paper, which she and her students currently make by hand.

Related: Is Hard Water Helping or Hurting Your Health

According to the pAge Drinking Paper website, “we are starting to scale up our operations to pilot the filters in a few villages in Africa and Asia. The most recent field trial was conducted in June 2015 with iDE-Bangladesh in southern Bangladesh, which focused on culturally appropriate design and product marketing. Currently, we are working with a team of students from Carnegie Mellon University to determine the most robust filter design. These pAge paper filters will be soon available for other projects.”