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The Drinkable Book: Rethinking Clean Water Interventions

The Drinkable Book is an innovation aimed at education and functional use. Photo via Brian Gartside.

The Drinkable Book is an innovation aimed at education and functional use. Photo by Brian Gartside.

Millions of people around the world don’t have access to clean, safe water for drinking, cooking, washing or other basic needs. And according to the World Health Organization, over 3.4 million people die annually from waterborne diseases caused by bacteria. But a new innovation called The Drinkable Book aims to combat this problem by going back to the basics, providing a literal book full of water filters and information to educate people about the dangers of contaminated water.

Teri Dankovich, the lead researcher on the Drinkable Book project, teamed up with WaterisLife to market the book in areas of the world that have the most difficulty accessing clean water. WaterisLife wants to educate people about the importance of clean water because, according to their website, if you do not teach about sanitation and hygiene, it leads to more problems.

Each page of the book is coated in silver nanoparticles, which kill bacteria as they come in contact with the silver, which means that the pages can be used as water filters after education. “In ancient times, people used to store water in silver pitchers to keep it fresh,” Dankovich says. “We’re taking that same idea and applying it to modern problems using nanotechnology.” This nanoparticle technology is also highly affordable.

The top halves of the pages have information about water safety printed in English, while the bottom halves are printed in local languages. So far, researchers have been in the field in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana. Eventually, WaterisLife hopes to have these books distributed in all 38 countries they work in around the globe. “This is a simplified technology,” says Ken Surritte, the founder of WaterisLife. “It appeals to us because it has the ability to educate people so they can learn about how to take care of their water and why that it is important.”

The water safety tips are printed in nontoxic ink and include information about the importance of washing your hands and keeping human body fluids away from water sources. The books are also highly affordable – each piece of filter paper only costs about 10 cents, and Dankovich expects that cost to fall as production scales up.

“We want to make a difference in the lives of as many people as we can. And that starts with educating them about the importance of clean water before giving them the tools to help prevent illnesses from happening,” he says.

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Individuals in Ghana filter water using the book. Photo by Corinne Clinch.

Soniya Shah

Soniya Shah

    Soniya Shah is an on-staff contributing writer at MedTech Boston. She's a senior at Carnegie Mellon University pursuing a BS in technical writing. She has experience as a ghost writer and medical writer, and in developing software documentation.

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