Water purification tablets are an ideal one-step back up form of water treatment. They are especially good for Get Home Bags and Bug Out Bags because they are light weight and inexpensive. Water purification tablets are also great to store in your vehicle or your bug out location to disinfect water on demand. Even though you are limited to the supply you have on hand they offer an easy way to make questionable water safe while a larger purification system is being set-up.
I use water purification tablets in my backpack during recreational trips into the backcountry as a back-up form of water treatment. If the water supply I am drawing from is extremely shady I combine both a filter and the tablets to ensure my safety.
Aren’t They Toxic??
All water tablets are toxic to some extent. They all contain pre-measured tiny doses of substances that kill water pathogens but not the people drinking the water. As long as you are not eating them straight or crunching on them like mints they are safe when used as directed. If you would prefer not to use chemicals to sanitize your water there are several effective water purification methods that are chemical free like boiling and SODIS (water purification with sunlight).
Water purification tablets are usually recommended for bug out bags and get home bags over the liquid drops because tablets are lighter weight and easier to use in a high stress situation. Tablets are also the running choice for the military and FEMA.
What’s the Deal with Cryptosporidium and Giardia?
Cryptosporidium is a genus of apicomplexan protozoans that can cause gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea in humans. According to the CDC it is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States. In a disaster situation where government maintained services are effected, it is highly likely that this protozoa parasite will find its way into our water supply. That is why it’s a big deal in emergency preparedness. (Source)
Giardia is also an infectious protozoa and it is a big deal in emergency preparedness because it can have such a dramatic effect on your health. The symptoms of Giardia, may begin to appear 2 days after infection, include violent diarrhea, excess gas, stomach or abdominal cramps, upset stomach, and nausea. Resulting dehydration and nutritional loss may need immediate treatment (if it is available). The typical infection within an individual can be slight, resolve without treatment in about 2–6 weeks, although sometimes longer and sometimes the infection is more severe requiring immediate medical attention. In a disaster situation if medical help is not available and no one has time to keep you hydrated, the situation could become life threatening. (Source)
What type of Tablet is Best?
There are three main types of water purification tablets on the market right now, and they are not all equal – each one has strengths and weaknesses. Choose the purification tablet that works the best with your situation and location. I will briefly break down each type of tablet.
NaDCC, also known as sodium dichloroisocyanurate or sodium troclosene, is a form of chlorine used for disinfection. NaDCC tablets are different and improved over the older chlorine based (halazone) tablets. They are available with different chlorine content (e.g. 3.5 mg to 10 g) to treat from 1 to 3000 liters at a time. They are usually effervescent (meaning that escaping carbon dioxide gas causes the tablets to dissolve quickly, with a ‘fizz’), allowing the tablet to dissolve in less than 1 minute. When added to water, NaDCC releases hydrochloric acid which reacts through oxidization with microorganisms and kills them. Many tablets advertise no chlorine after taste. Unopened NaDCC tablets have a shelf life of 3-5 years, if opened they should be discarded after 3 months. (Source) (Source 2)
General NaDCC use: Fill a container up with one quart of untreated water, filter water to remove large particles. Add one tablet (depending on manufacturer). Minimum wait time is 30 minutes, one hour will be more effective especially with colder water or water with a higher pH. Always follow product usage instructions to the letter. NaDCC is not effective on Cryptosporidium or Toxoplasma (which can be especially harmful to pregnant women and young children) but it is more effective on Giardia than iodine. Always follow product usage instructions to the letter. (Source) (Source 2)
Iodine Tablets use iodine to purify contaminated water. Most iodine purification tablets tend to leave a funny taste to the water and some discoloration, however vitamin C or ascorbic acid can be added after the treatment time to improve the taste and remove the color. This often comes in the form of two bottles with two separate tablets. Iodine water treatment has been proven to be somewhat effective against Giardia and not effective against Crytosporidium. (Source)
General iodine tablet use: If water is turbid lightly filter it prior to purification. Next use two tablets (or however many the manufacturer requires) in one quart of questionable water and let it sit at least 30 minutes prior to drinking preferably one hour especially if the water is cold or cloudy. An unopened bottle of iodine tablets should last four years, while an opened bottle kept in a dark place should be discarded after one year. Always follow product usage instructions to the letter. (Source)
Even though the word “chlorine” is in the name, chlorine dioxide is neither iodine nor chlorine. It uses a highly active form of oxygen to purify water so it leaves absolutely zero taste. As a nice bonus the action of chlorine dioxide causes alot of sediment to drop out of suspension (fall to the bottom) leaving the container of water more clear and further improving flavor. While the general printed expiration date of chlorine dioxide is four years out, if it is kept in temperature controlled environment it can last indefinitely. Chlorine dioxide tablets are a good choice for those allergic to iodine, with thyroid problems, or on lithium. (click here to learn more about chlorine dioxide)
General chlorine dioxide use: Fill a container up with one quart of untreated water, filter water to remove large particles. Add one tablet. Keep it away from sunlight, and wait. 30 minutes will kill viruses and bacteria found in pretty clear good looking water 60°F and warmer. Four hours of wait time is required to kill protozoa, also four hours of wait time is required for all viruses and bacteria if the water is very cold and/or turbid. Always follow product usage instructions to the letter.
Nearly a year ago today American Preppers Network reported to you an inventory issue with all chlorine dioxide water purification tablets (due to a number of factors but the main one effecting inventories was that several government agencies had placed large orders and all of the manufacturers had standing contracts that needed to be fulfilled before surplus product could be made available to the public) and that they would be unavailable for 4 months. Those four months turned out to be almost a year.
Until last month chlorine dioxide tablets were completely out of stock and there was only a limited supply of chlorine dioxide droplets available. Granted there were many other types of iodine and chlorine water purification tablets available but chlorine dioxide tablets were completely out of stock. Considering that the supply line of chlorine dioxide tablets is so easily overwhelmed – I would recommend stocking up on them now, as a opposed to waiting until it sounds like a good idea, only to find out that they are once again out of stock. Better to have them and not need them – than need them and not have them.
Please note: There are many articles on the internet about water purification tablets – any similarities are merely coincidence.