Is it safe to drink out of a 15 year old water filter?
May 8, 2010 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Is it safe to drink water filtered by a 15 year old Pur hand-pump camping filter that I haven't used in a decade? I rarely used it even back when I originally got it. I'm going camping tomorrow and just wondering if there's any reason to believe that chemicals in an old water filter may somehow become unsafe or ineffective over time.
posted by dziga to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
Test it out - see if the filtered water smells/tastes funky. If you had more time, I'd suggest you call the company. They'd know best.
posted by amanda at 7:38 PM on May 8, 2010

Best answer: Assuming it's like the Pur (now Katadyn) Guide, the filter is an activated charcoal core surrounded by a glass bead filter. The bacterial filter is actually a physical filter, not a chemical one. The bacteria can't fit through the spaces in the filter. The charcoal core just filters out bad tastes. So if you aired it out well after the last time you used it, it should be fine. I'd pump a liter of water through it tonight to flush out any loose carbon and just to check that it's not harboring mold or mildew as Burnhanistan mentioned. At worst, you'll know before you go and can pick up some iodine tablets and Kool aid.
posted by advicepig at 7:45 PM on May 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

The real issue is that activated charcoal can pull crap out of the air as well as water and, as such, may be worthless now. (The bacteriostatic part should still be OK.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:47 PM on May 8, 2010

If you are worried/concerned, take 2 extra water bottles and boil your water at night or pick up a new pump.

And amanda's idea to "see if the filtered water smells/tastes funky" is FANTASTIC because we all know how bad giardia filled water smells/tastes (sorry for the snark, but that is not a good idea at all, there's nothing you can tell by tasting/smelling water).
posted by TheBones at 10:19 PM on May 8, 2010

Give the first couple of bottles of water that you filter through it to the weakest/least useful member of your camping group.

If they drop at some point during the trip the rest of you should have enough time to make it back to civilisation for medical attention.

Be sure to note any symptoms displayed by your sacrificial camping buddy before they lost consciousness, as it will help the medical professionals treat the survivors more effectively.
posted by elroyel1327 at 12:57 AM on May 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

These filters are not about chemicals but about passing the water through small holes, holes too small for microorganisms too pass through. Older filters actually work better than newer filters, but are slower. The holes get clogged over time.
posted by caddis at 6:03 AM on May 9, 2010

Many of them have the accordion pleated fiberglass outer filter, and I have seen those split open at the seam where they were connected. I'm not sure how dangerous that would be, but I think on the old Pur Hiker (now Katadyn Hiker) it's the main filter element. I found this on the web about those filters:
The Pleated Anticlog Microfilter - This filter has more surface area than any other filter out there because of it accordion-style pleated cartridge. The cartridge has over 129 square inches of filter made of glass fiber. This surface area is the reason the Katadyn Microfilter has one of the best filter rates as the water can pass through the filter much faster. The filter is rated to 0.3 microns which is EPA approved to remove Protozoa, most bacteria, but not viruses. The filter also has a carbon core to remove most of the nasty tastes of chemicals you might find at a water source.

So if it does have the pleated cartridge, I would examine it carefully to make sure it's still intact.
posted by Red Loop at 6:26 AM on May 9, 2010

Regular maintenance for these involves pumping a litre of tap water with a bit of bleach, then pumping even more tap water through it to rinse it out thoroughly. The pump probably needs a bit of oil by this point, but it should be fine.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 9:41 AM on May 9, 2010

we all know how bad giardia filled water smells/tastes

I think amanda's point was that if there's mold or mildew growing in there, the water you pump through this thing AT HOME will probably look and/or smell funky. Clean-seeming water is no guarantee that the filter is still safe. But if the thing has been sitting in the back of a closet with residual water growing all manner of microscopic organisms for 10 years, it might be really obvious really quickly that it's no longer usable. It's worth trying to pump some tap water through before spending hours on the internet trying to decide whether it's safe. If you get fuzzy black chunks or stinky water or whatever, you can focus your efforts on buying a new water filter instead.
posted by vytae at 10:58 AM on May 9, 2010

Thanks, vytae. Giardia is not going to hang out in your filter for 15 years. Besides, the actual risks of giardia are quite low in moving water. The question as to how reliable the filter is at this point is valid. But no reason to take a funkfilled filter anywhere.
posted by amanda at 11:33 AM on May 9, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all for help. I elected not to take the risk. Carried all my water in, but will continue to investigate for future uses.
posted by dziga at 10:55 AM on May 10, 2010

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