The ‘Drinkable Book’ Can Literally Save Your Life

By Carl Engelking | August 17, 2015 1:45 pm
The drinkable book's pages can be torn out and used as filters. (Credit: photo courtesy Brian Gartside/Drinkable Book)

The drinkable book’s pages can be torn out and used as filters. (Credit: Photo courtesy Brian Gartside/Drinkable Book)

Sure, a good book can forever change your perspective on life, but one book can literally save your life.

According to the World Health Organization, 3.4 million people die each year due to health issues stemming from unsanitary water. To combat this alarming trend, scientists are working to produce and distribute “drinkable books” to people living in third-world countries. But this isn’t your ordinary book: Each page can be torn out and used to turn sewage into drinkable water.


(Credit: Photo courtesy Brian Gartside/Drinkable Book)

Drink Up

The “drinkable book” in the brainchild of Theresa Dankovich, from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who was researching a simple, inexpensive way to sanitize water. She developed “pAge drinking paper,” which is a sturdy sheet of paper loaded with silver and copper nanoparticles that kill dangerous microbes living in dirty water. The nano-paper eliminates 99 percent of bacteria living in the dirtiest water, and the resulting water contains metal levels well below U.S. guidelines for safe drinking water.

Dankovich tested her filter papers on 25 different water sources in five countries with success. She unveiled the results of her project at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting this week.

Dankovich has teamed up with the nonprofit organization WATERisLIFE to mass-produce books that are filled with this specialized paper. Each “drinkable book” contains information in English and the local language about water safety, as well as filtering instructions.

A single sheet of paper can purify up to 26 gallons of water, and a single book can supply a person’s water needs for up to four years.

Scaling Up

Now, the goal is to raise funds in order to scale up production of the books. Dankovich, to this point, has hand-produced each book in a church kitchen – it’s a long process. Dankovich has made about 50 books, which took over 60 hours for the paper treatment and drying process. WATERisLIFE is working on securing production funds to distribute the life-saving books around the world.

For the sake of clean water, we hope drinkable books become a global bestseller.

  • Uncle Al

    simple, inexpensive” “took over 60 hours for the paper treatment and drying process” (60 hrs)($15/hr minimum wage) = $900. We eagerly anticipate at least one of “charitable,” “volunteer,” “government funding” to achieve what of benefit to the payers?

    • stevebennett

      60 hours to produce 50 books, or (according to just this article), 200 person-years of water. That is, for $900 (your figure), 200 people have clean water for a year – $4.50 each. Are you saying that’s expensive?

      • Uncle Al

        If it is not expensive, why must we pay for it? I don’t vend excuses, I vend product.

        • philiphansten

          Perhaps I am mistaking your meaning, but are you saying that we have no responsibility for our fellow humans who find themselves in situations that are not of their own doing? (e.g., children) If so, it must suck to be you.

      • 7eggert

        It’s a month’s salary in some regions.

        But in production, you won’t have 50 books, you’ll produce much more.

        OTOH, you can sterilize problematic water by putting into a plastic bottle and laying it into the sun for a day. The UV rays will kill the bacteria – so I’m told.

        • stevebennett

          This claims to be able to filter heavy metals and other toxins – much more than UV can do.

    • CPCaesar

      Are you assuming that the drying process (likely the longest single time component) requires constant paid supervision at a rate of one worker per book?

      • stevebennett

        I think we’re all doing a lot of reading between the lines of this very short description :) But yeah – I read it as 60 hours of effort, not 60 elapsed hours. If it was the latter, it seems a very odd thing to say “It took over 2.5 days for the paper to dry”.

  • disqus_pOqBTkRuEN

    It’s still in the prototype stage– that is more expensive than it will be once a way to mass produce this is designed. :-) Congratulations on your insight, ingenuity, and determination, Theresa Dankovich!

  • Overburdened_Planet

    Is the effectiveness consistently 99% throughout those 26 gallons?

    Would 1% of sewage cause health issues?

    What happens if you filter more than 26 gallons per sheet?

  • Jesus Vazquez

    I think a printed bag would be a better idea you simply fill the bag and collect the filtered water no need for setting it up in that plastic expensive box. The book idea although cute seems like a gimmick.

  • eirikr1

    nice gimmick, that the pages on the book are instructions for use. Notice that the paper is good for 26 gallons. Does it change color or give an indication that it’s reached it’s limit? If not, the next innovation needs to be a dot or page that changes color when it has expired…


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