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International Aid Launches Global Safe Water Initiative, Unveils Portable Biosand Filter for Use in Developing World

New University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill study indicates BioSand technology yields significant health benefit;


The Dow Chemical Company among donors funding research into new filter's use in Africa, Central America, Asia;


First International Aid filters arrive in Dominican Republic and Honduras


Contact: Timothy I. Sipols, 616-233-0500, 616-648-5977; Brian Burch, 616-233-0500, 616-828-9813; both with Lambert, Edwards & Associates for International Aid


SPRING LAKE, Mich., Mar. 19 /Christian Newswire/ -- Leading humanitarian health care agency, International Aid, today announced a major safe water initiative that will help address the growing health crisis caused by lack of access to clean water in developing countries worldwide.  As the centerpiece of its safe water program, the agency introduced a new, lightweight water filter that combines proven filtration technology, known as BioSand, with an innovative plastic design.  International Aid believes the simplicity and affordability of the new unit have the potential to make a dramatic impact on the global water crisis.


The agency announced its new initiative in advance of the United Nations' World Day for Water 2007, whose observance on March 22 will focus on water's critical importance to life and health.  International Aid is responding to a health crisis of enormous proportions:  recent reports note that more than 10 million people – half of them children and teens – die annually from diseases due to unsafe drinking water; in developing countries, 70 percent of poor people lack access to treated water.


International Aid's new Plastic BioSand Water Filter™ – developed in collaboration with Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Cascade Engineering, a leading provider of engineered plastics products and systems – involves a major design improvement to the traditional BioSand filter currently in use in more than 70 countries worldwide.  The existing filter is constructed using concrete and typically weighs more than 300 pounds.  International Aid's new lightweight version weighs approximately seven pounds, making it far easier to transport and distribute in rural areas and remote locations.


As part of its announcement, International Aid also cited the release today of initial data from a recently completed epidemiologic study, conducted in the Dominican Republic by researchers from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Public Health, that examined for the first time the effectiveness of BioSand technology in reducing diarrheal disease, a leading cause of disease and death in the developing world.  The study, directed by Professor Mark D. Sobsey, found that the use of the concrete BioSand water filter achieved disease reduction of 30-40 percent among household members, including in a particularly vulnerable population – young children under age five.  These initial findings suggest BioSand technology is comparable in effectiveness to other water treatment technologies that have been documented to improve microbiological water quality and health.


To supplement these findings, International Aid also announced today that The Dow Chemical Company, based in Midland, Mich. [NYSE:DOW], will fund a new study designed to test the effectiveness of International Aid's plastic version of the BioSand filter in Ghana, West Africa. Dow's support is funded through The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the company's philanthropic organization whose mission is to contribute to a more sustainable world by focusing financial contributions on the elements of economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, social support and science education. 


This study – the first of three research initiatives International Aid intends to sponsor across three continents – will examine both the filter's ability to improve water quality and the ability of local communities to successfully adopt the new technology.  Drawing on the support of an anonymous donor, International Aid will soon launch a similar plastic filter study in Central America, and expects to pursue research in Asia in the near term.


"Those of us who work amid the devastation caused by unsafe water know all too well there is no silver bullet for solving the world's water crisis," said Myles D. Fish, International Aid's President and CEO.  "But today, encouraged by compelling new research, the support of our sponsors, and the promise of our new lightweight water filter, International Aid is taking an important step in addressing this crisis.  In leveraging our extensive global aid network and partnering with organizations that share our mission, we hope many others will take notice and help magnify our new campaign for safe water."


"Dow is delighted to sponsor this key BioSand water filter trial," said Scott Noesen, Dow's Director for Sustainable Development. "One of our goals as a global chemical company is to identify ways to help meet some of the world's most significant challenges and clearly the lack of clean drinking water is one of those challenges. We are pleased to help facilitate this test in Ghana and believe the results will prove that IA's innovative BioSand filter can supply clean drinking water to many families in the developing world."


International Aid Safe Water Initiative


International Aid's Plastic BioSand Water Filter™ is a core element of the agency's broader safe water initiative, which also includes plans for providing education to help communities change their behaviors through improved hygiene instruction and by providing prescription drugs to treat waterborne diseases.  In addition, International Aid intends to help create indirect social benefits from its water program by fostering local micro-businesses dedicated to the water filter's ongoing operation and maintenance.


International Aid's safe water initiative is a natural extension of the agency's larger mission, focused on providing healthcare solutions during major humanitarian relief efforts and through an array of ongoing development projects that involve community-based healthcare, disease treatment and prevention, and linking the resources provided by the agency's corporate and church partners with people in need.


"International Aid's safe water initiative contains elements of both relief effort and development program, and is therefore an excellent illustration of how we work to fulfill our mission," continued Myles Fish.  "We're leveraging our deep relationships among corporations, churches, and other humanitarian groups to fund and develop an important healthcare solution, and tapping our distribution channels to implement it in communities worldwide.  Our continued appeal is for those who share our vision to offer their resources at both ends of this proven aid channel."


IA Plastic BioSand Water Filter™


International Aid is exclusive holder of the worldwide humanitarian license for the Plastic BioSand Water Filter™.  An injection-molded, non-electric device with no moving or replacement parts, the new filter can provide clean, safe water at the rapid rate of 47 liters per hour and meet all of a family's water needs, including drinking, bathing and washing clothes.  Designed in partnership with Cascade Engineering, which is also manufacturer of the unit, International Aid's plastic filter incorporates BioSand technology currently in use in more than 80,000 concrete filtration systems worldwide.


The BioSand method removes pathogens from water through a combination of biological and mechanical processes.  The filter itself comprises a plastic container enclosing layers of sand and gravel, including a surface layer of sand that is populated by bacteria-consuming micro-organisms during the filter's initial preparation.  Water is poured into the top of the filter as needed, where the first, biological layer consumes pathogens before the water travels through the additional layers of sand and gravel.  As it collects at the base of the filter, the water is propelled out of the filter through plastic piping attached to the unit's exterior.


About International Aid


International Aid is a leading Christian relief and development agency that provides and supports solutions in healthcare.  Over the past decade, International Aid has responded to more than 100 man-made and natural disasters – including 9/11, Katrina and other major U.S. hurricanes, the South Asian tsunami and Pakistan earthquake – and has delivered more than $500 million in relief supplies to 170 countries.  In addition to its high-profile relief work, International Aid is heavily involved in multiple development efforts focused in the areas of community-based healthcare; disease treatment and prevention; and leveraging the agency's network of ministry partners to provide products, equipment and knowledge-based services to people in need worldwide.


Editor's Note:  IA President and CEO Myles Fish and the agency's partners are available for media interviews.  IA has made additional safe water resources available – including video b-roll, photography, fact sheets and other water-related sources – at www.internationalaid.org/press.