Aquamira Water Treatment drops treat drinking water using chlorine dioxide, a well established disinfectant which is iodine and chlorine free. The small size, portability and long shelf life of the kit represents a breakthrough in technology allowing this highly effective treatment method to be carried and used by individuals around the globe. Tastes range from nothing at all to a little sour lemon taste, but either way it doesn't taste terrible like iodine.
The unique formula works by releasing nascent oxygen, a highly active form of oxygen, which is a strong oxidant and a powerful germicidal agent. Chlorine dioxide has been used by municipal water treatment plants to kill a variety of waterborne pathogens since the late 1940s. Unlike free chlorine (familiar as household bleach) or other halogen chemicals (such as iodine), chlorine dioxide does not create potentially harmful by-products, but the jury is still out as to if it is a potentially harmful reactant.
Aquamira's key benefits are clearly evident when compared to the other common portable water treatment chemical: iodine. Most importantly, chlorine dioxide is a significantly stronger oxidant than iodine, with greater pathogen killing power. Unlike iodine, chlorine dioxide does not discolor water, nor does it give water an unpleasant taste. In fact, chlorine dioxide is often used to improve the taste of water by neutralizing unpleasant flavors.
Filters can weigh up to 227g (8oz.), while a weeks worth of Aquamira in our mini droppers weighs 28g (1oz.). Filters need to be cleaned and changed regularly, and they still do not typically remove viruses. Over time, a filter may be less expensive, but pumping is time consuming and time is money. With Aquamira, just mix it, add it, and go.
Drops vs tablets? Drops are more cost effective, and you can vary the dosage depending on the volume of water and your guesstimate of how clean the water is. Since you can't vary the dose with tablets, water treated with tablets may have a stronger sour taste. With tablets you know exactly how many you have left, and you don't have to worry about running out of solution A or B like you do with drops. The tablets also have no fiddle factor, while the drops require mixing and a five minute wait before adding it to water. For trips up to four days, the tablets are a lighter option; For longer trips, the drops are lighter. Both are effective against viruses and bacteria, but to match the potency of the tablets against protozoa you have to triple the dosage of the drops. At freezing temperatures, the liquid drops can freeze, and if the bottle is full it could explode. This isn't an issue with tablets.
Regardless if you use drops or tablets, treatment time for viruses and bacteria is 15-20 min, and treatment time for protozoa (cysts) is 30 minutes to 4 hours in temperatures ranging from 20-4° (the colder the water the longer the treatment time). At treatment times over one hour in length, it's actually lighter to carry a filter than the tabs or drops. One hour is around the break even point, and treatment times of less than an hour generally result in a reduction in weight carried if one uses tabs or drops. It may be good to use a filter in the winter that is capable of filtering protozoa. That said, I don't know anyone that has waited over an hour, and tests have shown treatment times to be much less than what is reported by manufacturers or the EPA (most likely due to liability). For my own liability, you should use these products as directed by the manufacturer.
According to the EPA's Alternative Disinfectants and Oxidants Guidance Manua', Chlorite and chlorate are produced in varying ratios as byproducts during chlorine dioxide treatment and subsequent degradation. The primary concern with chlorite and chlorate is oxidative damage to red blood cells. According to the Chlorate and Chlorite Drinking-water study conducted by WHO, IARC (1991) has concluded that chlorite is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans. That same study shows that chlorine dioxide has been shown to impair neurobehavioural and neurological development in rats exposed perinatally. Experimental studies with rats and monkeys exposed to chlorine dioxide in drinking-water have shown some evidence of thyroid toxicity; however, because of the studies' limitations, it is difficult to drawn firm conclusions. A more recent study conducted by a Canadian Committee on Drinking Water resulted in similar findings. A third study, called Toxicological Review of Chlorine Dioxide and Chlorite was conducted by the EPA, also came to the same conclusion. On the other hand, the EPA regulates chlorite concentrations in drinking water to 1 mg/L, and lists the long term health effects as Anemia in adults, and nervous system effects in infants & young children. They probably do this to err on the safe side.
From the EPA chapter on Chlorine Dioxide, found that even under the most favorable conditions (i.e., at a pH of 8.5), required doses to achieve 2-log Cryptosporidium inactivation requiring doses of more than 3.0 mg/L with a 60 minute detention time. At neutral pH levels, the required doses may be more than 20 mg/L. The EPA maximum contaminant level for Chlorine Dioxide is 0.8 mg/L, so a dose of 3.0 mg/L of chlorine dioxide that would inactivate crypto in the most favorable conditions may be potentially harmful. The EPA warns that some infants, young children, and fetuses of pregnant women who drink water containing chlorine dioxide in excess of the maximum residual disinfectant level could experience nervous system effects. Some people who drink water containing chlorine dioxide well in excess of the MRDL for many years may experience anemia.
Compare with a maximum contaminant level of 4.0 mg/L for chlorine. While chlorine dioxide may be somewhat more effective as a biocide than chlorine, it is even easier to take a harmful dose to yourself. Excessive amounts of chlorine dioxide may result in anemia, while excessive amounts of chlorine may result in an upset stomach. Which, in addition to it's higher cost, is the reason chlorine dioxide is used to a lesser degree in public water systems.
It should be noted that the EPA and other regulations apply to municipal treatment plants, not personal water treatment systems. It should also be noted that lots of people use Aquamira/Pristine and no one is dropping dead. I have seen no indication that a healthy adult using it for a short period of time would suffer any ill effects. Still, in light of the regulations that apply to ClO2-treated water consumed on a regular basis, it seems reasonable to suggest that anyone considering using ClO2 for an extended period, or anyone with an underlying medical condition (including pregnancy or blood disorders) might want to get medical advice specific to their situation. For anyone who is looking for a threshold that is known to be safe, a report commissioned and used by Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada advises limiting intake of water treated with Pristine/Aquamira to 1.5L/day for no longer than three months, and to only use the regular dose. It also advises people with thyroid problems, anemia, or other blood illnesses to use of treatment methods, and says that women who are or are trying to become pregnant should not be exposed to it.
Organisms in a biofilm are more difficult to kill than planktonic organisms. For more information on Chlorine Dioxide's effect on biofilm, read Efficacy of Chemical Water Technologies in the Backcountry by Erica McKenzie and Dr. Ryan Jordan, which compares the efficacy of AquaMira to other chemical treatment methods, including iodine and MSR Miox. Bleach was not included in that experiment, but another study showed that biofilms exposed to chlorine bleach for 60 min are reported to still have live cells. Unless you use a harsh chemical like chlorine dioxide, a filter should be used to remove any biofilms. The bigger the biofilm the harder it is for a chemical to penetrate, but the easier it is to get caught in a filter.
Note: There is a myth circulating that you need a triple dose of drops to kill protozoa. A letter from Aquamira has been posted on Backpacking Light's forum disproving this myth. There is no difference in dosage between the tablets and drops when used as directed.
- Effective against viruses, bacteria, and protozoa
- Treats up to 208L (55 gallons) of water
- Four year shelf life even if opened and used during that period
- Useful as a preservative for stored drinking water for earthquake or other disaster preparedness
- Safe, light-weight, and easy
- No unpleasant taste
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Mini Dropper Bottle
Mini Dropper Bottles are used to store, hold, and mix liquids, powders, and other substances. The opaque bottles are great for storing bleach, iodine, or Aquamira Water Treatment Drops.