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 Pathogens 
Pathogens are microorganisms that cause disease. There are a variety of microorganisms that can contaminate drinking water supplies. They can be broken down into four main categories including:
  • Bacteria including E. Coli, Salmonella, and a wide variety of heterotrophic bacteria
  • Cyst forming Protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium
  • Viruses
  • Worms
  • Molds
  • Spores
Not all microorganisms are capable of causing disease. Those that do are called pathogens. The most common include Salmonella, certain strains of Coliform bacteria including E. coli, and the cyst-forming protozoa known as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
 
Most Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli can infect humans, domestic animals and many wild animals. Random samples from farms indicate that a significant percentage of farm animals may be infected and that infected animals (including horses, cattle and poultry) are not always visibly sick. However these 'asymptomatic' carrier animals shed billions of virulent organisms in each ounce of their feces. 
 
Because virulent E. coli strains can survive for a few months in animal waste, and Salmonella can persist in untreated farm waste for up to two years, proper utilization and composting of animal wastes are important steps for reducing Salmonella and E. coli contamination, and breaking the cycle of re-infection.
 What Microorganisms Are Most Dangerous 
Micro-organisms as bacteria, cysts and viruses are serious threats to our drinking water supplies. Traditional methods of drinking water disinfection include boiling, oxidation, and ultraviolet (UV) light. Each of these methods have serious limitations. Even RO membranes are subject to break-through and cannot, on their own, guarantee water that is safe. These facts have kept researchers on the path of trying to find other ways of preventing exposure to these kinds of pathogens. Ster-O-Tap® low pressure capillary membrane technology developed by Prime Water International is the first technology to offer a failsafe mechanism for the control of dangerous microbial pathogens. They have been tested by a variety of independent laboratories to exceed FDA and EPA requirements for reduction of these dangerous microbes.
 
Each of the pathogens below are shown against a background that illustrates the relative size of the organism to the .15 micron pore size of our patented microfiltration element. Illustrated in this way, you can see clearly how capillary membrane technology can offer fail-safe protection against these dangerous microorganisms.
 
Information regarding the size of the organism and its infectious dose may be gathered by selecting the desired image.
 Scientific data on levels of micro-organisms indicate that the concentration of coliform bacteria (i.e. E.coli), commonly found in surface waters, ranges from 105 (also expressed as log 5) per 100 ml for polluted stream water to 109 /100 ml in raw sewage. Since 1976 we know that not only ingested bacteria can have serious health effects, but also if inhaled Legionella Pneumophilia bacteria can cause a severe form of lung infection. Considering infectious levels of 10for immune compromised people, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set the target effluent concentration after treatment to be less than 100 organisms per 100 ml or a 6 log (99.9999%) reduction.

Cysts (i.e cryptosporidium and giardia) are the largest waterborne micro-organisms (3 - 6 micron) and occur in surface waters in a concentration of 10/L. They are highly infectious and the FDA has set the target effluent after treatment to less than 1/100L, equivalent to a 3 log (99.9%) reduction.

Concentrations of entero viruses (i.e polio and rota virus) in surface waters are estimated to range between  102 - 104 per liter. It is generally felt that drinking water should be free of infectious virus and the effluent concentration after treatment has been set by the FDA to be less than 1/100L, equivalent to 4 log (99.99%) reduction.
Pore size of MF & UF membranes relative to common pathogens
Pore size of MF & UF membranes relative to common pathogens
Capillary membranes remove in excess of 1 million (106) times more organisms or particulate matter than the highest rated carbon blocks, ceramic filters or UV sterilizers. Norit microfiltration capillary membranes provide a guaranteed 6 log (99.9999%) reduction of bacteria and cysts thereby exceeding FDA requirements. Their ultrafiltration capillary membrane provides a guaranteed 4 log (99.99%) reduction of virus, thereby exceeding FDA requirements for a water purification device.
 How Common Is The Problem 
 Microbiological contamination of water has long been a concern to the public. From the 1920's-1960's, Salmonella typhi, the bacillus that causes typhoid fever, was considered a major problem for community water supplies. While rare, outbreaks still do occur.
 
Michael Beach, a waterborne diseases specialist with the CDC, said that in the past 20 years there have been only six reported instances of Salmonella contamination in municipal water. He said one case involved contaminated groundwater, two were linked to water-distribution system breaches, and three involved disinfection problems. 
 
In March of 2008, state and federal public health officials found themselves managing a large Salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated groundwater that sickened hundreds of people in Alamosa, Colorado. Authorities do not know how the water became contaminated with Salmonella. Ken Carlson, an environmental engineering professor from Colorado State University, said Alamosa's water comes from five deep wells and is untreated. More than half of the US drinking water supply consists of untreated groundwater, he told the Post, adding that groundwater typically never comes in contact with possibly contaminated surface water before reaching consumers.
 
Worldwide, typhoid fever affects roughly 17 million people annually, causing nearly 600,000 deaths. Little is known about the historical emergence of human S. typhi infections, however it is thought to have caused the deaths of many famous figures such as British author and poet Rudyard Kipling, the inventor of the airplane, Wilbur Wright, and the Greek Empire’s Alexander the Great. The earliest recorded epidemic occurred in Jamestown, VA where it is thought that 6,000 people died of typhoid fever in the early 17th Century. While this disease is rare in the United States and other developed nations, as the episode in Alamosa Colorado demonstrates, typhoid fever always poses the risk of emergence.
 
In parts of the United States, concern is increasing due to outbreaks of E. coli, giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, and hepatitis A. Some of these are bacteria, while others are viruses or protozoa. 
 
If you are on a public water supply system and you are concerned about the possibility of microbial contamination, contact your water company. If you use a private water supply, have your water tested by a reputable lab. Treatments do exist for microbial contamination, but it is important to know what is present before treatment is started.

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 How Can Water Be Disinfected Reliably? 
There are a variety of methods used to disinfect water. Traditionally, water can be disinfected by boiling it, by adding oxidizing agents like chlorine or iodine, and by exposing it to ultraviolet light. 

The fourth method is filtration. Up until a few years ago this was not a reliable or practical method, however new technologies that make use of capillary membranes make filtration a highly practical method of disinfecting water supplies in a way that is failsafe as well as environmentally friendly.

For a recap of each of these methods click here.

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P. O. Box 7261
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