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Old 05-06-2012, 12:48 AM   #1
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Default Boil water for how long?

I am one who believes once you hit 212 degrees, a rolling boil, all organic and microbial organisms are inactive (dead). The only spores that will "cocoon" themselves and re-activate after cooling are not a health issue.

Yes, water boils at lower temperatures the higher you go in elevation http://www.hi-tm.com/Documents/Calib-boil.html, but at those higher altitudes the health hazards in water also decreases...or so I am told.

So thats what I would like to hear about... Do any of you have knowledge about bio-hazards at higher altitudes?

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Old 05-06-2012, 12:57 AM   #2
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You mean like chemical agents etc that boiling doesn't get rid of?

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Old 05-06-2012, 01:31 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by mountainman13 View Post
You mean like chemical agents etc that boiling doesn't get rid of?
No, atleast i don't think so, but that info would be good as well. I am wondering what dangerious bugs are in water or COULD be in snow found at high altitude.

If I am on a 10,000 ft mountain. I boil a pot of water and that boil happens at only 190 degrees, NOT 212. What microbial organism is found at 10,000 ft? Are they dangerious to ingest?

I guess guys from Denver should know this since they live up past 6000 ft. Can you just scoop up some snow, melt it and drink..or do you recommend boiling for X amount of time (and why). Lets say chemical treatments are not available.
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Old 05-06-2012, 01:58 AM   #4
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The rule is at sea level, once the water is boiling, you should be fine. In unfamiliar areas where you are not sure, 3-5 minutes.

also, don't eat snow, it will further hypothermia and frost bite. Parasite/Organisms DO live in snow.

I'm no biologist but I'm willing to bet that any organism that can live in water, snow, ice at sea level can live way up in the mountains. ESPECIALLY if there is a human population.

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Old 05-06-2012, 02:20 AM   #5
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Here is some reading for you.

The correct amount of time to boil water is 0 minutes. Thats right, zero minutes.

“According to the Wilderness Medical Society, water temperatures above 160° F (70° C) kill all pathogens within 30 minutes and above 185° F (85° C) within a few minutes. So in the time it takes for the water to reach the boiling point (212° F or 100° C) from 160° F (70° C), all pathogens will be killed, even at high altitude.”

Source: http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/manual/water.shtml

“What is not well known is that contaminated water can be pasteurized at temperatures well below boiling, as can milk, which is commonly pasteurized at 71°C (160°F)…”.

Source: http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Water_pasteurization.

What is not well known is that contaminated water can be pasteurized at temperatures well below boiling

The fact is, with a water temperature of 160 to 165 degrees F (74 C) it takes just half an hour for all disease causing organisms to be inactivated. At 185 degrees this is cut to just a few minutes. By the time water hits its boiling point of 212 F (100 C) – plus or minus depending upon pressure or altitude – the water is safe. Even at high altitudes the time it takes for the water to reach a rolling boil and then cool means you can safely drink it.

Lacking a thermometer to measure water temperature, you only need to get your water to a rolling boil. By that point you know the water is hot enough and that the disease organisms in your water were destroyed quite some time earlier. End of story, turn off the heat. Stop wasting fuel. Let the water cool down. Your water is safe to drink!


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Old 05-06-2012, 02:21 AM   #6
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so in other words a person could get water from any source creek pond river boil it an it be dirnkable with no health hazords?

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Old 05-06-2012, 02:28 AM   #7
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Don't confuse this with cooking food though. If there is a toxin buildup in a can of food, then you need to deactivate the toxin also, not just kill the microbes.

Ergo for food the boiling time is 10 mins or longer in order to clear the toxins as well.

But in plain water there would likely be no toxins. Toxins are normally only produced under oxygen-free pressurized conditions such as in canning or bottling.

I know, food was not your question. But it is easy to falsely analogize from boiling plain water to cooking canned or bottled foods.

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Old 05-06-2012, 02:34 AM   #8
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so in other words a person could get water from any source creek pond river boil it an it be dirnkable with no health hazords?
These days, most backpackers and hikers use convenient small portable filters to purify water, rather than taking the time to boil water.

If you don't have a filter, and you can start a fire, and you have something to put the water into, then boiling is your next best bet.

Better than both, is to find the source of a percolating spring. At that point the water is normally not contaminated with any microbes.
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Old 05-06-2012, 02:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mountainman13 View Post
You mean like chemical agents etc that boiling doesn't get rid of?
If the water is somehow contaminated with chemicals, no amount of boiling short of industrial distillation is going to detoxify the water.
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Old 05-06-2012, 02:45 AM   #10
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Anywhere people or animals have gone, there is a chance for biological or organic contamination. It only takes a little contamination to mess you up, and there is no visual test to tell the difference between safe and likely safe water. So unless it comes from a municipal tap, you take a risk if you don't treat the water.

Boiling is effective for biological contaminants, but not organics like pesticides. At altitude, 5 minutes is a common recommendation.

Mixed oxidant is effective on biological contaminants but not organics, but needs sufficient contact time, usually 30 minutes. MiOx is best, but chlorine will work well in a pinch.

Filters work pretty well on organics, but may miss biologicals like virus. MSR makes a filter and includes MiOx drops to knock off the biologicals...a nice combination.

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