A low cost filter would provide safe drinking water in a jiffy during emergencies or at a short notice.

Floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes often spread infections like gastroenteritis, giardiasis and even cholera because of a dearth of clean drinking water.

Researchers have taken a key step towards making a cheap, portable, paper-based filter to provide safe water, the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology reports.

“Silver has been used to clean water for a very long time. The Greeks and Romans kept their water in silver jugs,” says Professor Derek Gray from McGill’s University, Canada, who led the research.

But though silver is used to get rid of bacteria in a variety of settings, from bandages to antibacterial socks, no one has used it systematically to clean water before.

“It’s because it seems too simple,” affirms Gray, according to a McGill’s statement.

Gray’s team, which included graduate student Theresa Dankovich, coated thick (0.5 mm) hand-sized sheets of an absorbent porous paper with silver nanoparticles and then poured live bacteria through it.

The results were definitive. Even when the filter contains a small quantity of silver, it is able to kill nearly all the bugs and produce water that meets the exacting standards set by the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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