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Solar Disinfection Purifies High-Altitude Water

Solar Disinfection Water SODISThe University of Colorado researchers found that solar water disinfection (SODIS) was a viable way to purify contaminated water at high altitudes. The team tested the method on water containers at both high and low altitudes.  It discovered that all bacteria were inactivated after six hours of direct sunlight exposure. Interestingly, bacterial inactivation at high altitudes was 1.7 times greater than at lower altitudes after just two hours. However, there were no significant differences in bacterial inactivation between high and low altitude samples after six hours. Plastic bottles were found to have a 1.4 times greater decrease in bacterial colony forming units than Nalgene bottles.  However, there was no statistical difference in bacterial inactivation between plastic bottles and plastic bags.

Various methods can be used to disinfect water, including reverse osmosis, heat, filtration, chemical treatment, and ultraviolet (UV) light. Solar disinfection is a natural and effective way of inactivating microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi.  Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene is essential for human health during emergency situations (natural disasters, extreme weather events).

The research also highlights how global health, and wilderness medicine can intersect to improve access to safe drinking water. However, further research is needed to investigate whether SODIS is effective at disinfecting other organisms at high altitudes.  Only after studies involving human subjects will be developed. The study’s co-lead investigator, Kylie Van Hoesen, stated that the project emphasizes the potential of interdisciplinary research to improve access to clean and safe drinking water across the world in high altitude remote areas.

Learn how the MIT scientists are turning saltwater into drinking water.

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