Monday, October 17, 2005

POTTERS FOR PEACE : Who Cares If They Need Haircuts

Every since I joined I have been feeling a little guilty. This is because I feel like I have an army of worker bees finding great non-profit organizations that I can write about. The Nabuur "Neighbors" share information about potential non-profit resources and my blog has been reaping the benefit of their work. But don't get me wrong; I have been sharing information with them about the wonderful non-profits that are the subjects of this Blog's articles.

Well, today I have another Great Find that was suggested by a Neighbor of one community that I am hoping will work out great for another community as well.

The name Potters For Peace brings to mind (for an "old timer" like me) images of young people in the sixties heading to remote locations in the American Southwest to try to figure out what they could do to make the world a better place. These were the kind of people who, when I pointed them out to my mother would say: "That's nice, dear, but don't you think they should cut their hair?"

Anyway, I don't know if the folks at Potters For Peace are old "hippies" or not, but they sure have a hell of a good idea for making the world a better place.

Since 1998, these guys have been developing a low-tech, low-cost, colloidal silver-enhanced ceramic water filter.

I know, I know, I didn't quite understand it at first either, but here it is. What this is, is a porous ceramic pot placed inside a plastic or clay bucket with a spigot, and the clay pot is saturated with a germicide/disinfectant called colloidal silver. The water filters through the clay pot saturated with the colloidal silver germicide and is ready for consumption as clean, safe water.

Now, to be honest, I didn't know what "colloidal silver" is, even after a Google search told me that it is a suspension of submicroscopic metallic silver particles in a "colloidal base."

I eventually found a definition on Potters For Peace's web site that said:

Colloidal Silver
"Colloids are submicroscopic particles of material suspended in a liquid. Silver is converted to colloidal silver by running a positive electrical current through bars of pure silver suspended in water. The size of colloidal silver particles is generally between .015 - .005 microns. Upon becoming a colloid, silver takes on a positive ionic charge.

"In its ionic colloid state, silver is recognized as a germicide, or in some cases as a bacteriostatic. It is believed that silver is able to disable the particular enzyme that pathogenic bacteria and fungi use for oxygen metabolism, thus suffocating them. Other pathogens are destroyed by the electric charge on the silver particles, causing their internal protoplast to collapse, and still others are rendered unable to reproduce. Parasites are also killed while in their egg stage."

But, when I had Googled "Colloidal Silver" earlier, a lot of pages came up where the "pros and cons" of humans ingesting colloidal silver are being debated. And after a fairly close read it's my understanding that, the Potters For Peace does not say with certainty that the using the water filter does not involve ingesting colloidal silver. (Correct me if I an wrong, guys.) In their FAQ page they put it the following way:

"Q. After water passes through the PFP filter, is silver in the water? If so, how much?
Good question"

But Potters for Peace is very candid about this controversy and takes no position on the claim of colloidal silver's effectiveness as an antibacterial agent to be directly ingested in relatively large daily, or regular doses." They do state, however that there is a "historical and well-documented application of colloidal silver as a safe and effective water purification agent used in conjunction with various filtration and storage methods for both large and small water systems." They go on to state that Colloidal silver is not listed as a toxin by the Environmental Protection Agency's Poison Control Center and that the Food and Drug Administration has no regulations regarding the use of colloidal silver as an antibacterial in any form or method, but that some sort of guidelines will be forthcoming.

The site gives an account of the toxic side effect (Argyria) from ingestion of silver as mentioned earlier, but cites that while medical science recognizes Argyria as specifically caused by intensive long-term exposure to silver compounds, such as silver nitrate, silver sulfate, silver sulfadiazine, etc., it is not believed to come from micro-particles of ionic silver.

At a later point in this discussion that indicate that while the total amount of colloidal silver used in their filter relatively minute, it is still possible that even smaller trace quantities of the material could pass directly into the filtered water. But to date, "no medical study conducted on colloidal silver has indicated that it poses a threat to human health."

There is much more to the information on that page than I have posted here, but time and space requires me to move on and urge the reader to finish reading this material at: Colloidal Silver

It needs to be said also that Potters For Peace has a link posted on their web site that leads to a page where they have posted he results of a study financed by USAID that gives the following information:

"In September 2001, Jubilee House Community contracted with USAID to provide intrinsic and field investigations of the Potters for Peace colloidal silver impregnated ceramic filter." …

Potters for Peace manufactures filters which are sold to NGOs that implement a water filtration program in the communities they work within. Working with three partner NGOs, a total of 33 homes in seven communities were visited during the three-week field trip. Twenty-four of the 33 homes (73 percent) were using the filter at the time of the unannounced visit.

The results of the water quality monitoring in these 24 homes were:

Silver concentration in the finished water does not pose a human health risk.
Water quality parameters measured were not outside normal values.

· Only 4% of the filters removed total coliform, 25% removed H2S-producing bacteria, and 53% removed E. coli when it was present. This is due to contamination of the receptacle and inadequate storage of water.

· Latrine ownership, household cleanliness, and plastic receptacles were correlated with microbial removal.

· No household with a filter that removed microbial contaminants had a child with diarrhea in the last month.

There are some recommendations that follow this portion of the report, which I will leave for the reader to review himself or herself. The report can be found at:
Field Investigations

Potters For Peace also say on their web site that this filter has been "cited by the United Nations' Appropriate Technology Handbook, and is used by the International Red Cross and the Nobel Prize winning medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders." That sounds like a couple of votes of confidence to me.

They also say that field "experience and clinical test results have shown this filter to effectively eliminate approximately 99.88% of most water-born disease agents."

The people at Potters For Peace state on their web site that they "are potters first and foremost, working on the Ceramic Filter Technology project in conjunction with a wide variety of medical and scientific agencies." By pooling our collective talents, they hope to put our skills to use benefiting people. They also say that they "welcome and encourage constructive criticism."
What they are hoping is that they can "provide potential incubation assistance to a badly needed cottage industry; the production on a village, and semi-industry level, of low-tech ceramic water filters." They believe that their filter is and efficient way for rural, communities in developing nations to secure safe water. And they believe that this process is "well proven."
By presenting their information on the Internet, they are hoping to generate an interest in this technology and fostering discussions among those concerned with quality of life issues in the developing world. And, of course they are hoping to meet the urgent need existing in the world today to provide safe water in rural and marginalized communities, while providing employment for local potters.

There may be some controversy about Colloidal Silver, but I think I feel pretty safe if the International Red Cross and the U.N. think these guys are on to something. But don't take my word for it. Surf on over to Potters For Peace's Ceramic Filters web page and take a look for yourself. And also, I've linked to their Home Page as well.

I Think These Guys Are Doing Something To Make The World A Better Place.

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