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Low-Cost Household Water Filter Drastically Cut Diarrhea Rates - 2004-06-28

Low-cost household water filters cut diarrhea rates substantially in a new study. The simple, low-tech filter systems could help reduce the number of child deaths in places where drinkable tap water is not available or reliable. Diarrhea causes an estimated 2.5 million deaths a year, and one in five child deaths in developing countries. Contaminated water is the main culprit. So researchers showed participants in a rural part of Bolivia how to build a simple water filter system. The filter removed bacteria that cause diarrhea, reducing disease rates by 70 percent. The disease reduction among young children was even better, at 83 percent.

Researcher Joseph Brown at the University of North Carolina says people liked the filter system because it also makes their drinking water less cloudy. "That's something that we found was a major motivational aspect of using this type of filter: it makes the water nicer to drink," he says.

Researcher Brown also says the filter's simplicity was a big benefit. "There isn't anything terribly fancy about it. And that's an important point as far as sustainability goes. We provided very minimal training with these. And we found that for the most part people found them quite easy to use," he says.

The filter systems cost about $25 each. But while participants liked the filters, they said they were only willing to pay about $10 for them. Mr. Brown says there are ways to make them cheaper, but subsidies may still be necessary to make them widely acceptable. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene published the research.