Don’t Go Thirsty
One of the phrases I heard a lot of when I was a kid was “Why don’t you get out and get some sunshine?”. It was my mom trying to get me out from in front of the TV and outside for some exercise and sunlight. Later, as a teenager, I would hear my dad using the shortened version of the phrase, “Why don’t you get out?” But that’s another story.
It turns out Mom was right again. Not just for suggesting I get outside and get some exercise, but for wanting me to live a healthier life. We all need to get out and into the sunshine, at least some of the time. Sunshine is good for us. Not only do we enjoy a good dose of Vitamin D (produced by our skin from direct exposure to UV) but, by having sunshine touch our skin we can actually be getting cleaner. Cleaner, that is, in the sense that sunlight kills bacteria, molds, e coli, salmonella, and other bad stuff we might be carrying around on our exposed skin.
In 1877 two English men accidentally discovered that sunlight kills bacteria. They noticed that a glass jar they had left out with sugar water in it started growing cloudy with bacteria in the area outside of the sun’s rays, and the area of the jar with bright sunshine remained clear! Incredible!
It wasn’t until much later that the super-killing property of sunlight was credited to the ultraviolet spectrum of light. You see, we couldn’t see it. It took some really smart guys to start looking for something that no one could see. When they did see it, they found that the UV spectrum had the ability to kill everything in its path! Or at least any viruses, germs, bacteria, and micro-organisms ,that is.
Ok, so what does all this mean for us today and the survival of the survivalist? Well, let me tell you.
You see, even before we knew of this super-killing spectrum of light, it was out there in the world doing its job fighting for all of mankind. And now that we all know about it, it will be out there working even harder than before! Well, perhaps, but not likely. But UV is out there working all day long from sun up to sun down, and now that we know about it we can use it to our benefit.
For instance, let’s say you are lost in the wilderness on foot (having had to abandon your car) without your hard core gear.
You’re getting thirsty from the burning sun high in the sky, so you continue your hike through the wilderness until you come upon a babbling stream. It is a very picturesque stream with shallow, crystal clear water, moving swiftly over clean worn stones as it runs for about 200 yards and continues to a small pool downstream. The sunlight shines right through the water to the clean worn stones at the bottom of the streambed, and it all sparkles like diamonds. You are hesitant to take a sip of water from the stream, knowing that it could contain all types of nasty viruses and microscopic organisms that will only make you wish you hadn’t eaten those two energy bars that you found under the seat of your car earlier.
You look to the sky in hopes of seeing rain clouds but see none. As you turn your head back down, you notice an empty water bottle, most likely discarded by some previous hiker and you wonder why they had been so disrespectful to have thrown litter in the wilderness. You pick up the plastic bottle to redeem the soul of the hiker who didn’t follow the pack-out-your-trash rule, and you notice that even though the label is gone, the bottle looks fairly new and clear.
You suddenly remember! Sunlight kills! Not everything, but you had read an article once on how the UV spectrum in sunlight kills viruses, germs, and bacteria. If only you had a bottle to fill with stream water and let the sunlight do its job, you’d have a drink in no time flat! Too bad you can’t use that plastic water bottle. You had also read something about how water bottles left in cars all day long in the heat of the sun release dioxin, a deadly carcinogen and poison.
You stop for a moment to consider if you read too much.
If only some inconsiderate boob had gently thrown out a clear glass bottle or mason jar, you could be using it along with the sunlight to purify the stream water and enjoy a cool drink right freaking now! No such luck.
Surely you are not the first person in the history of the world to be this thirsty at that location along this beautiful stream.
You wonder how man survived before there were glass jars to purify water? How did they survive?
Well, if a spring wasn’t readily available, they would look for a stream with very shallow, crystal clear water, moving swiftly over clean worn stones as is ran for about 200 yards and continued to a small pool downstream and the sunlight shined right through the water to the stones at the bottom of the streambed and it all sparkled like diamonds.
For reasons they may not have fully understood, they knew that, with a stream like this one where the sunlight penetrated the clear water through to the clean washed stones at the bottom of the stream bed and it ran for over 100 yards, the water was safe to drink. They were careful to not disturb the stones and cause silt or mud to cloud the water sometimes by just laying face down at the bank and bringing their lips to the surface of the water for a slurp or two. Or they may have held their tin cup (or mason jar) at a point that did not disturb the stream bed and filled their cup. They did not have water filters or water purifiers; they let the sunshine do the job. Today, we can, too.
We do, however, owe it to ourselves to be smart about how and when we let sunshine do its job, but since we live in an era of more technical threats, we need to ask a few questions .
Do you know what is up stream? Is there run-off from a chemical factory feeding the stream, or is it run-off from a glacier or last winter‘s snow? You may very well decide not to drink that water, but, where survival is concerned and you have no other choice, at least you can reasonably work to limit the chances of drinking bad water.
Some of the larger threats we can find in water include what is called a protozoan cyst. This includes E coli, cryptosporidium, and giardia. According to the Water Treatment Guide (a technical data base for the water treatment industry), UV is, in fact, very effective against cryptosporidium and giardia. UV breaks down the DNA of these little critters and renders them harmless to us. Here is a short list of what UV light kills: bacteria, dust mites, yeast, germs, mold, viruses, and protozoan.
It is also important to point out that using the plastic bottle as a sunlight-water-cleansing bottle is just fine. There are no dioxins in plastic. Much of what you read online can be wrong as Rolf Halden, Ph.D. Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health points out.
So it looks like both Mom and sunshine are indeed our friends where good drinking water is concerned, beating out other well-known killers such as bleach that will not kill crypto and might not kill giardia or cyclospora cysts, iodine that does not kill crypto, and boiling water which falls short of killing bacterial spores. Water boils at 212 F and actually needs to reach 250 F to kill all bacterial spores and be truly sterile. This can be done using a pressure cooker or autoclave, which most of us don‘t have.
The truth is that UV may actually be the best killer of bad stuff in our water, rivaling the best water filters man can produce.
Today, we can also use UV light indoors where the sun don’t shine to protect ourselves from microscopic threats.
A quick online search found the Nano-UV Wand. The portable, electric UV wand is for home and commercial use and will kill “surface germs of infectious diseases and the eggs of lice, fleas, dust mites and bed bugs. Surfaces become 99.99% germ and virus free after just a quick 10 second sweep! Kills epidemic bacteria such as E-coli, SARS, staphylococcus aureus, salmonella and Avian Bird Flu,” as well as B. parathphosus, corynebacterium diphtheriae, eberthella typhosa, dysentery bacilli, streptococcus hemolyticus and the eggs of mites, bed bugs, lice and fleas on our beds and pets!
As it turns out everything needs to get out and into the sunshine. So use your portable water filter when you have it, but don’t go thirsty when you don’t.