Saturday, October 1, 2011

Drinking Water In a Disaster or Emergency

In this post I'll discuss about the NUMBER ONE most important thing in order to survive any natural or man-made disaster, drinking water. Now we all know how to get water when society is running like it should and you can just open your faucets or go get some bottled water at the store, but what happens when you open the tap and nothing comes out and all the stores are either locked up tight or simply destroyed. Before radiation, famine, disease or anything else gets to you, the first and most important thing will be to secure a clean and safe source of water. In this optic, there is two different mentalities, some people are into storing massive jugs of water in their house and car just in case something happens, and other people keep no storage of water but store water filters and disinfecting cleaning tablets instead. Like in most things, there is an in between. Personally I use a bit of the two as both have advantages and disadvantages. For example, having stored water is space consuming and heavy, but you have it with you ready to drink instantly. Having stored supplies to produce clean water requires that you find some sort of water supply to purify and then requires you take the time to purify it in the field, but has the advantage of being lighter and more compact. I will discuss each strategy one by one with what equipment is available and then come back and tell you about my setup for water storage and purification.

Solution #1 (Water Storage):
In a way the most practical but also heaviest means of having a good source of water is carrying already filtered and sanitized water with you. Depending on where you live and how much space you have reserved for survival water storage, it can sometimes be a big problem. However when we talk about water storage, it doesn't mean do fill huge blue plastic drums with water and keep one in your car wherever you go. It can be as simple as keeping a couple of standard US Military 1 Quart canteens (as seen on the picture left) filled with water and a drop of Clorox to make it last longer. I find this option a lot more particle because 1 quart of water (946ml) also happens to be the minimum emergency ration of water for one adult for one day. You can thus easily calculate how much days of water you want to have on hand for emergency use, all in an easy to transport package. The US Canteens are very tough and can easily survive a fall from a couple of stories onto the ground, if you fill them to only half, they also float very well. They stack themselves very well in a box and are easy to distribute when they are needed. Personally I have 3 wooden boxes with 24 canteens each for a total of 72 canteens. This gives a nice 72 adult portions of water which in my opinion gives me enough time to find a more sustainable source of water or until rescue arrives and distributes more water supplies. 72 Canteens can sustain 5 people for more than 2 weeks which is plenty enough.

Water purification for storage:
In the optic of storing water there is certain things that you should do in order to make sure your stored water is good and healthy when you are ready to drink it. There is plenty of commercial products out there which are all quite expensive that basically add chlorine to your water to keep bacterial growth down during storage. A side note on chlorine, it is NOT dangerous to your health or bad for you, chlorine is actually needed in your body in great quantities (2300mg per day in adults). It is drinking pure  bleach that is bad because it is more than you body will ever need. When using Clorox or any other brand of bleach to purify water, only use regular bleach, not scented or with other additives. The only big disadvantage which is also what makes bleach environmentally friendly is that it neutralizes itself over time. In one year bleach loses half its power, and so on, so the most often you rotate your water supplies the better but if you do like me and put 150% the recommended dosage shown below (3 drops for ever water canteen) you should be able to store city water for easily a year with no problems whatsoever. According to Clorox, one gallon can effectively treat 3800 gallon of contaminated water. With the price of 1 gallon of Clorox at around 5$, treatment price is at 0.1 cents per gallon. Not much specialty water treatment tablets even come close to this! If the water is cloudy or you sincerely think it is very contaminated, double the dose of Clorox. Below is a table with the recommendation from the Red Cross on the amount of Clorox to add to water to kill bacteria:

  • 2 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per quart of water
  • 8 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per gallon of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Regular Clorox Bleach per five gallons of water

NBC Canteen Caps:
On a side note, I love the US 1 quart canteens because if you own a gas mask, you can also buy a US Issue NBC Canteen cap. NBC which stands for Nuclear Biological Chemical is a standard for emergency equipment designed to protect you against these three threats. These NBC caps screw onto all one and two quart US canteens and allow you to connect your gas mask's drink tube to your US canteen allowing you to drink without removing your gas mask which is a good idea since there is probably a good reason you are wearing this gas mask in the first place. They sell for around 19.99$US each and they can be bought off eBay. Here is a link to my personal stash.

Solution #2 (Water Purification):
The second solution to having clean water on hand is the most complicated but also the most compact and easy to transport. Having with you the means of turning dirty cloudy water into pure clean water perfect for drinking and free from all bacteria and viruses. Now, there are two categories within water purification, either chemical purification like the Clorox method above or physical filtration. There is no way to happily enjoy your water with any one of these methods, both of them need to be used together to get your perfect glass of water. If you example you use the chemical method and effectively kill all bacteria and viruses, your water will be safe but it will still be cloudy and may contain floating pacticles which is not very attractive. The opposite is also true, if you physically filter out your water it will look perfectly clean but tiny viruses may have passed through the filter and will still contaminate your water.

Physical Filtration:
Physical filtration is the means of forcing water through a filter and preventing anything else than H2O from passing through. In the filtration world, nothing is better than a ceramic filter, it is robust, has great filtration capabilities and is easily cleanable. My favourite portable filtering pump is the ''Katadyn Pocket'' which is the top in the filtering world in term of reliability performance and most importantly, durability. There is nothing worse than a broken filter when you are really thirsty. In an emergency situation, it could be deadly. This is what the company Katadyn has to say about their high performance filter pump: "The classic. This robust water filter made of heavy duty materials is ideal for long lasting continuous use even under extreme circumstances. The silver impregnated ceramic element is effective against bacteria and protozoa. The Katadyn Pocket is the only water filter with a 20 year warranty. Includes: Prefilter, bottle clip and carry bag". A good filter can carry a hefty price but it is well worth the investment. Just don't forget to buy an extra filter cause there ain't going to be many around in an widespread disaster! The main advantage to a ceramic filter is that they are very easy to clean and then you can just leave them in the sun to dry. Here is a link to the Katadyn website if you want to read more on it. Personally I don't have the funds (855$US) right now to buy myself a Katadyn Pocket and 2 replacement filters right now, but it is definitely in my plans for the future.

Chemical Filtration:
I know I have already discussed the Clorox trick to treat water and it works fine except it may be not very practical to carry a Clorox bottle in your bag all the time. There are different chemical makeups available that all try to do the basic task of killing every living thing in your water. There is Iodine, Chlorine, potassium permanganate, and halazone tablets on the market today. The two most popular are Iodine and Chlorine. Personally I prefer the Chlorine ones because they tend to be more effective even in cold water where Iodine can be much less effective. And in the Chlorine tablet world, proven reliable is a tablet called ''Chlor-Floc''. First of all I'll say that this is not a tablet but a little packet of powder. I love this product because the army uses it so they have done studies on it before buying it and equipping their troops which is a little reassuring and as the picture on the box suggest. They are made for the 1 quart US canteens I'm using. It's simple as 1 packet for 1 canteen. These tablets do two things, first they kill anything alive in your water and secondly they clear the suspended particles in your water chemically and puts them in the bottom of your canteen by using a flocculating agent. If you want to see what a flocculating agent does in real-time look at this youtube video, the process looks magical. Like I said in the Clorox section, tablets are a lot more expensive than using bleach, these Chlor-Floc tablets come up to around 31 cents a litre against 0.1 cents a gallon for bleach.

To conclude, your emergency water plan should comprise a mix of water storage and portable water treatment. Do not neglect on any of the two options because the two are needed. For the filtration part, keep tablets and a filter handy as they work together. When it comes to last resort, you can use only tablets, and can do an initial filtration using a shirt or bandana. Keep reading for future posts!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Movie Review: Right at your Door (2006)

This is my first movie review, but I told myself why not. It's fun reading about survival techniques, medication equipment and theory on radiation, but watching a little movie is also fun. I chose to write on ''Right at your Door'' specifically because I really liked the movie and it is up to some point very realistic in the terms of government reaction. I'm telling you in advance, I will not spoil the movie for the people who did not see it, so don't worry I'll won't tell you the punch lines. However, I strongly suggest you go see it because it is an awesome movie that clearly depicts what happens when terrorists strike and the government is not prepared. Being prepared yourself could be of great help if something like this happens and it will. In the bottom of this post I've included a chart of the failed terrorist plots in the US since 9/11. It is all compiled in a nice chronological chart with the manes of the people arrested and their targets. It's not because there has been no successful attempts that we should let our guard down, it's just that they have not succeeded luckily for us, until now.

In the movie, a dirty bomb goes off in Los Angeles, and sends radioactive and other unknown substances all over the city and it's surroundings. The story concentrates on a couple Brad and Lexi and how they live the horrible event. For all the survivalists out there, you will able to see your good share of gas masks and haz mat suits. Like in any terrorist event, law enforcement and the government agencies are seen running around like headless chicken not knowing what to do with the people injured in the blast and the people affected by the fallout. The shopping craze right after the bombs detonate can be seen and again is very realistic from what has been seen in natural events seen in reality in the US. Government tells people to listen to the radio for updates on what to do, which like expected are contradictory from one place to another. When panic of a biological attack sets in people start to be shot and drastic measures are taken by the government which isn't quite sure what to do to contain the virus. I won't say anymore about the movie, go see Right at your Door and use it to plan for what YOU would do if a such thing happened in your city.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nuclear War Medication - DTPA for Radioactive Plutonium, Americium, and Curium

This article is a sub-post to Top Medication for a Nuclear War or Meltdown in this post I will discuss about the third medication for radiation fallout, DTPA to treat Radioactive Plutonium, Americium, and Curium. Like the previous post, I'll start by explaining what radioactive Plutonium, Americium, and Curium do to your body. All of those three radionuclides are very rarely used in the medical field as they are extremely dangerous. With the difference of Cesium-137 and Thallium-201, these three radionuclides can have half lives of up to millions of years. If a huge bomb was detonated and these radionuclides were released it would mean a no life zone (dead zone) for millions of years. I'll explain quickly where Plutonium, Americium, and Curium are commonly found, what is their common isotopes and what is the typical half life of the common isotopes. After that I'll discuss about what DTPA  is and who makes it. You will learn that DTPA comes in to forms and how much do you have to take to get rid of Plutonium, Americium, and Curium that you may have inhaled or ingested as a result of either the detonation of a dirty bomb made from Nuclear Waste, the result of a Nuclear Reactor accident, or a Nuclear Bomb.

Plutonium-238 and Plutonium-239:
Plutonium has 20 different isotopes that range from 228-247. Plutonium-238 and Plutonium-239 are the most common isotopes of Plutonium. The main use of Plutonium-238 is as a thermal-electric generator which require low maintenance. An example of this in in spacecraft which can't go back to earth to fuel up. It has a very long half life of 87.7 years, which if I use the ten halves formula means it would take 877 years for Plutonium-238 to be deemed perfectly safe. Plutonium-238 is also found in spent Nuclear Fuel which is why it could show up in a dirty bomb. Plutonium-239 is far more common than it's counterpart primarily due to it's ability to make nuclear chain reaction, hence it use in nuclear weapons. It is to expected that if Plutonium-239 was found, it is probably because you are near a Nuclear Test Site (Trinity, Enewetak or  Novaya Zemlya) or a Nuclear Bomb detonation site (Hiroshima or Nagasaki). It would be possible to find it in dirty bombs using waste nuclear fuel. If an all out nuclear war was to happen, Plutonium-239 would be a major concern. What make Plutonium-239 good for maximum explosive damage in nuclear weapons also makes it deadly in fallout. Plutonium-239 has a half life of 24,200 years meaning it would take 242,000 years for it to be considered perfectly safe. The result would be considered a permanent dead zone for the area which contained most of the fallout, and this for 242,000 years! As for it's biological half life, it takes 200 years for your body to naturally eliminate half of the Plutonium it contains. As for it's effects on the body it is deadly even in small quantities and it is accumulated mainly in the bone marrow, liver and lungs. Plutonium is very hard to absorbed when injected, giving us a biological advantage as only 0.04% of the Plutonium you ingest will be absorbed. Breathing fallout particles though, is extremely dangerous and most of the Plutonium will accumulate in your lungs. If the Plutonium does not kill you, it will cause cancer in the areas where it is absorbed.

Americium-241 and Americium-243:
Americium has 19 different isotopes that range from 231-249. Americium-241 and Americium-242 are the most common isotopes of Americium. The main use of Americium-241 is in household smoke detectors in which a tiny quantity it used in the process to detect smoke. Now don't jump and rip off your smoke detector, it does not emit any radiation on itself that will harm you. The problem with Americium-241 is that it is not controlled when in smoke detectors and if you could gather a large number of smoke detectors, you could gather a significant supply of Americium-241 which then would be dangerous. Americium-241 has a half life of 432.7 years making it a good 4,327 years to deteriorate to a safe level. For the body it has a biological half life of 50 years in the bones and 20 years in the liver. Americium-243 is less common that its counterpart but is found in Nuclear Waste from Nuclear Plants, Nuclear test sites, and Nuclear accident sites (like the recent Fukushima Daiichi incident). Even if it is not commonly found, Americium-243 is still very dangerous because its half life of 7,370 years makes it dangerous much longer than Americium-241. We have the same biological advantage with Americium that we have with Plutonium as only 0.05% of the amount ingested is absorbed by our body.

Curium-242 and Curium-244:
Curium has 21 different isotopes that range from 232-252. Curium-242 and Curium-244 are the most common isotopes of Curium. As you may have wondered with the picture (left), Curium has been named after Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie and Pierre Curie who have been very important people in the field of Radioactivity. Curium-242 has no current mass use, it has been proposed for various purposed mainly as generators in space probes. Curium-242 has a half life of 160 days (4.3 years to be safe). Curium-244 like its counterpart, has no common use, but proposed usage also include spacecraft Nuclear Generators. Curium-244 has a much longer half life of 18.1 years (181 years to be safe). Both Curium-242 and Curium-244 are by-products found in Nuclear Waste and Nuclear Explosions, and has also been found near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in 2011. In the body Curium concentrate equally in the bone marrow and liver. Its biological half life is of 50 years in the bones marrow and 20 years in the liver. We have the same biological advantage with Curium that we have with Plutonium and Americium as only 0.05% of the amount ingested is absorbed by our body. If inhaled it concentrates in the lungs where it is a lot more dangerous.

Now that we've covered the three radionuclides DTPA can help eliminate, lets look at the medication. DTPA is in the family of chelating agents. That is DTPA sticks to Plutonium, Americium and Cesium and shortens their biological half life. DTPA once stuck to the radionuclides, is naturally eliminated through urine. It is important to take DTPA correctly as it is not intelligent, it will stick to other minerals like Zinc, Magnesium, and Manganese. This means that it is eliminating the good minerals in your body just as the Radionuclides. When taking DTPA it is recommended to take mineral supplements, mainly Zinc. There are two types of DTPA and it is important to take the right one.

Pentetate Calcium Trisodium (Ca-DTPA) by Hameln Pharmaceuticals:
Pentetate Calcium Trisodium also known as Ca-DTPA is the only FDA approved medication along with Pentetate Zinc Trisodium (Zn-DTPA) for use as a chelating agents for contamination of Plutonium, Americium and Cesium. Ca-DTPA is the strongest of the two DTPA solutions and is very effective at accelerating the biological decay of Plutonium, Americium and Cesium. Ca-DTPA is said to be 10 times more effective than Zn-DTPA when given in the first 24 hours after contamination. Ca-DTPA is supplied in single-dose glass ampoules each containing 1000mg of Pentetate Calcium Trisodium dissolved in 5ml liquid form. It can be given either by inhalation in a special device or by intravenous injection (IV). The typical treatment with Ca-DTPA is to use only one 1000mg ampoule treatment then switch to Zn-DTPA. When used by IV, use a slow IV push for 3-4 minutes. This means that the 5ml dose should be slowly push in your blood stream over a period of 3-4 minutes, it shouldn't be injected all at once. Ca-DTPA is too strong to be administered more than once and can get you very sick. Ca-DTPA is not available over the counter and thus is a prescription only medication. Furthermore, most if not all treatment are given at a hospital by qualified personnel and thus you will probably never find it in a pharmacy.
Price per 1000mg dose (1 ampoule) is 22.50$US

Pentetate Zinc Trisodium (Zn-DTPA) by Hameln Pharmaceuticals:
Pentetate Zinc Trisodium also known as Zn-DTPA is the only FDA approved medication along with Pentetate Zinc Trisodium (Zn-DTPA) for use as a chelating agents for contamination of Plutonium, Americium and Cesium. Zn-DTPA is 10 times weaker than Ca-DTPA when used within 24 hours of contamination. After 24 hours both Ca-DTPA and Zn-DTPA are equally good, but Ca-DTPA still remains very dangerous. This is why after 24 hours Zn-DTPA is the preferred treatment. It is administered exactly the same way as Ca-DTPA, by slow IV for 3-4 minutes. Even if it is less dangerous than Ca-DTPA, Zn-DTPA should be taken with at least some Zinc supplements. For both types of DTPA it is important to drink a lot of water and to go urinate the most often as possible, especially in the beginning as all the radionuclides are all concentrated in your bladder. The quicker you urinate them out,  the less damage will have been caused to your body.
Price per 1000mg dose (1 ampoule) is 22.50$US

Here is a chart of the dosage for Pentetate Calcium Trisodium (Ca-DTPA) and Pentetate Zinc Trisodium (Zn-DTPA):
Adults and Adolescents                            1000mg (One 5ml ampoule) Every 24 hours
Children (under 12 years old)                     14 mg/kg (Max 1000mg) Every 24 hours

Visit the FDA website for other details on the dosage

This concludes the post on the second type of radionuclides which there is medication for. If you have any questions or comments feel free to discuss it in the comments section and I'll be more than happy to answer. Lastly, don't count on government reserves of neither Ca-DTPA or Zn-DTPA or any other medication for that fact, as when a nuclear war will break out o simply another nuclear accident, it will be a free-for-all for medication and in a couple days time there will be none left. Both these medication are only very rarely used in hospitals and I wouldn't be surprised if some hospitals don't even have some.