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Pasteurization of Water

Copyright April 2, 2012 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.

For many, many years (since 1998) I have recommended that you boil your water for one minute to make it safe to drink. For many, many years I have also mentioned that boiling will only kill the pathogens in that water and it will not remove radioactive particles or dissolved chemicals in the water. To accomplish these additional tasks a family would need a high quality water filter, or they will need to distill their water.

At the current time (Spring 2012) the internet is being overwhelmed by advice from individuals with the very best intentions who are recommending that you only need to bring your water up to a pasteurization temperature of approximately 165 degrees F (or 74 degrees C) to neutralize all the harmful pathogens in that water. This advice is going to get some people killed. I pray that it will not be you.

Most of the common life-threatening pathogens that may be present in water will die rapidly at temperatures between 140 degrees and 165 degrees F (or 60 to 74 degrees C). However, there are some less common pathogens that can survive temperatures of up to 185 degrees F (or 85 degrees C) before they are neutralized. The temperature at which water will boil is 212 degrees F (or 100 degrees C) at sea level at a barometric pressure of 30.3 inches of mercury. If you do not live at sea level, or if your barometric pressure is not 30.3 inches of mercury, then the boiling temperature of your water will be lower than 212 degrees F (or 100 degrees C). In a worst case situation at an elevation of 10,000 feet and a barometric pressure of 27 inches of mercury, your water will begin to boil at 184.3 degrees F (or 84.6 degrees C). Therefore if you can get your water to the boiling point then you can be reasonably certain that you will have killed every known pathogen that might be present in that water, including the common and the not-so-common pathogens. (Note: There may be some new pathogens that can live in boiling water but at this time I am not aware of any.)

As I have mentioned many times in the past, you are an adult and you may follow any advice you wish. But before you reject one of my recommendations may I humbly suggest that you very carefully analyze the course of action that you are considering because it may not be in the best interests of your family.


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Grandpappy's e-mail address is: RobertWayneAtkins@hotmail.com