This 'drinkable book' purifies water with the paper it's made of -- and it could save millions of lives

Theresa Dankovich was working on her doctorate in chemistry at McGill University when she realised she could purify dirty water just by running it through specially treated paper. 

Now Dankovich, partnering with the non-profit WATERisLIFE, has released a book with pages that don’t just explain the problem of water contamination, but actually solve it.

Around the world, 663 million people still don’t have access to clean drinking water. That’s more than the entire population of North America.

Contaminated water can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and lead to deadly bacterial infection, which could easily be avoided if only people had a way to clean up their water.

Dankovich believes The Drinkable Book could be part of the answer.

Printed on each page of the 100-page book is the same message, in either English or Swahili: “The water in your village may contain deadly diseases. But each page of this book is a paper water filter that will make it safe to drink.”

All a person has to do is slide the paper into one of the book’s two trays and pour water on top of it. Contaminants absorb into the paper, which is treated with bacteria-destroying silver and copper nanoparticles. 

The paper kills “99.9999% of bacteria under the ideal circumstances of the laboratory,” according to the team’s IndieGoGo page. The purified water then filters through to a tray underneath.

Dankovich and her team are currently trying to raise $US30,000 to take the book from a pilot program to a full-fledged public health solution. That money will finance equipment and travel costs and provide clean water to two villages for a month, according to their estimates. One book can purify roughly 10,000 litres of water, or four years worth of water for a single person.

To keep the operations under one roof, they have created the nonprofit pAge Drinking Paper.

“Right now all the filter papers are made by hand by Teri or a student in a local church kitchen,” Jonathan Levine, earth and environmental engineer and Dankovich’s partner, wrote on the IndieGoGo page.  

According to Levine, scaling the project to accomodate hundreds of people, let alone millions, will inevitably take time.

Just getting the proper government research grants could take up to a year. That’s why crowdsourcing is so vital to the company’s success.

The books cost only pennies to produce, but more cash on hand now means more books in the hands of people who need them.

“Someday we would like to have these papers in the hands of the poorest people throughout the world,” he writes. “But before we can get to 1 million we have to go through 1,000.”  We have reached out for further comment and will update the story accordingly.


Though the book is not yet for sale, the team’s IndiGoGo campaign is taking donations through September 18. A $US10 donation can help cover the cost of producing one book. 

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