Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gear Review: Purinize Water Purifier Solution

Nalgene Canteen
Purinize 2oz. Bottle

Purinize Water Purifier Solution is an all-natural water purifier using an “all mineral salt solution”. What makes this product unique among water purifiers is the ingredients, which are simply 2% sulfate mineral salts; 98% purified water. When I first received this product and read that suspect ingredient list, my first question was: How does that work? Before I even began testing this stuff, I had to do my research. The answers I found are a bit murky.

According to Purinize, water purification occurs in a four step process.

1. FLOCCULATION. when Purinize is added to water, it causes dissolved, invisible impurities, like dirt, organic waste, and micro-organisms to come out of suspension and agglutinate or clump together.

2. AGGLUTINATION: The process of agglutination (clumping) occurs where impurities are neutralized as they clump together becoming insoluble. 

3. PRECIPITATION: Once agglutinated, the insoluble, neutralized impurities solidify as they precipitate out of solution becoming filterable.

4. DEPOSITION: The precipitates settle, becoming sediment at the bottom of your water container. At this point your can either, filter and/or scoop, or pour the purified water.

If you read those steps closely, you might take away two key points. The first is that water is purified by clumping the impurities together so that they “become filterable”. The second is that the clumped impurities become “neutralized“, and settle as sediment at the bottom of your container”. The trick is then separating the sediment from the water, which Purinize recommends using a .1 micron or smaller filter. Indeed, my small 2 oz. bottle of Purinize was sent to me with a Sawyer Mini Water Filter for this purpose. But I couldn't help but wonder: If I had a filter, why would I need Purinize? 

The top water filters sold for backcountry use in the United States are perfectly adequate for removing any harmful bacteria one might encounter in North America. Hikers have used filters like the trusty Katadyn Hiker Pro for years. As great as filters are however, they do not actually purify water. Let me repeat that just in case you think I made a typo. Water filters do not purify water. To do so, they would also need to filter out viruses, which are just too miniscule for nearly all filters. That is where a water purifier comes in. Any product claiming to “purify” water, must “destroy 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses and 99.9% of protozoa”. 

Purinize posts the results of independent lab testing on their website to validate their purification claims. They list a whole host of waterborne pathogens it eliminates or reduces, including some viruses. Incredibly, it also claims to be 99.95% effective at reducing chemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, and heavy metals. The problem with the lab testing however is that “all tests were conducted using a 0.2 micron” filter. I say “problem” because a .2 micron filter would reduce many of the pathogens, pesticides, and chemicals on its own.

Now we reach the crux of my problem. How do I safely test a water purifier whose effectiveness I am not convinced of, and whose failure may seriously impact my physical wellbeing? The answer, of course, was to follow the instructions sent to me by Purinize to the letter. 

For my testing, I always paired the Purinize with a filter. I just couldn't get over the fact that the lab tests were also done with a filter. On their website, Purinize claims that it “will disinfect and clarify virtually any fresh water source within minutes…” All you have to do is “add the suggested amount of Purinize to your water. Mix well and wait a few minutes before consumption.” They do recommend however that a filter be used before drinking for the “removal of agglutinated particulates.” So that is what I did. I never tested this product alone without a filter.

I tested Purinize on a variety of water sources. My first test was at a Willow Springs Lake on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. The lake was very low and extremely muddy due to persistent drought conditions in the region. For this first test, I involved the entire family. I treated a gallon of lake water with Purinize, waited about 10 minutes, and filtered with a Katadyn Hiker Pro. The end result was crystal clear water that tasted pretty good. I shared the water with my family, mainly because of the trust I had with the Katadyn Hiker Pro. All of them agreed the water was good. We all drank plenty and none of us got sick. The test results however were inconclusive, because using the Katadyn Hiker Pro would have made the water safe anyway.

Taking the advice of Purinize, I decided to treat a bottle of tap water, and leave it overnight. To treat, you simply add 15 drops per liter of water. After 24 hours I checked on my bottle of water, and sure enough, at the bottom was a pile of clumped impurities that sort of resembled a yellow goop. When I drank the water (with a filter) I didn't notice any discernable difference in the taste. I tried this same experiment with several water sources, all with the same result. Perhaps the most revealing test I conducted was with green algae-filled swimming pool water. After waiting 24 hours the green water was crystal clear, except for the yellow goop floating around near the bottom. Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant drinking this water because of its original appearance, but using a Sawyer filter, it tasted fine and I didn't get sick.

Purinize is a tough nut to crack for a gear tester. Although I can physically see sediment clump together and sink to the bottom, I don’t know for certain if the water itself is actually purified because I lack a proper laboratory and the scientific knowhow. Since all the treated water is ran through a filter, it’s tough to tell which method is making the water safe to drink; the Purinize, or the filter? The only way to find that out, is to just use Purinize alone (and skip the filter) on water I know will contain pathogens or chemicals that will make me sick. But I’m just too scared to try.

My conclusion is that Purinize would be an unnecessary redundancy for backpacking use in North America. If you are overly concerned about a particular water source I would consider Purinize as a pre-filter treatment option. The best use for Purinize in my view is for emergency water treatment or long term water storage in an “off the grid” scenario. If you are collecting water for storage purposes from potentially unsafe sources, I can see Purinize working well to clump possible impurities together in storage to assist in the filtration process later on. Furthermore, lacking any expiration date, Purinize could benefit from a long shelf life as long as it’s properly stored. This shelf life makes Purinize an option for preparing for future fresh water shortages due to a rising population, global warming, and man-made pollutants.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a 2 oz. bottle of Purinize Water Purification for free from Purinize Advanced Water Technologies as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations in consideration for review publication.