SteriPEN FAQs

SteriPen FAQs
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  • Item #: W117000
Frequently Asked Questions about the SteriPEN UV Water Purifiers

What is a SteriPEN?
SteriPEN is a hand held water purifier that uses ultraviolet light to purify up to 1 liter (32oz) of water at a time. There are no chemicals to taste or smell, no pumping or test strips, and no setup or clean up involved! It is discreet enough to use in a restaurant anywhere in the world, or in your hotel room if the quality of the water is at all questionable. There are times when a municipal water system becomes compromised, necessitating the boiling of your water before consuming it - the SteriPen eliminates having to boil the water. The SteriPen UV Water Purifier is in our all time Top Ten list of items to have AT HAND in case of an emergency away from home.

How does the SteriPEN UV Water Purifier work?
SteriPEN utilizes C Wavelength UV (ultraviolet light). UV-C light is short wave light, between x-rays and visible light wavelengths, which destroy the DNA of microbes in seconds. Without functional DNA, microbes can't reproduce or make you sick.

Can you tell me more about UV light?
Ultraviolet light is invisible, high energy light. UV is an old technology. In 1878, its effectiveness against bacteria was noted and it is now used commercially in bottling plants, in hospitals and in municipal water treatment plant worldwide. Wavelengths of light are measured in nanometers (nm). A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Visible light ranges from red at about 700nm to violet at about 400nm. Normally the human eye does not see light at wavelengths outside of this 400nm to 700nm "visible" range.

The entire band of UV light is about as broad as the entire visible spectrum -- it runs from 400nm to about 100nm. The UV band is divided into 3 ranges: UV-A between 400nm and 320nm, UV-B between 320nm and 290nm and UV-C between 290nm and 100nm. Most of SteriPEN's UV light is emitted at 254nm, in the UV-C range. UV-C light destroys DNA and thereby prevents microbes from reproducing.

Germicidal UV light -- between 240nm and 290nm -- acts on thymine, one of the four base nucleotides in DNA. When a germicidal UV photon is absorbed by a thymine molecule that is adjacent to another thymine within the DNA strand a covalent bond or dymer, between the molecules is created. This thymine dymer prevents enzymes from "reading" the DNA and replicating. Without the ability to replicate DNA, the microbe cannot reproduce and is rendered harmless.

Is UV light dangerous?
Exposure to ultraviolet light can cause skin and eye damage. Used as directed, SteriPEN will not cause UV exposure to the user. Note that SteriPEN's lamp emits a number of wavelengths, some of which are in the visible range. The visible blue light given off by SteriPEN is just that, visible blue light -- not ultra violet -- and it is not dangerous to look at. In fact while the visible light has no germicidal effect, it is an important indicator that the lamp is functioning properly. If no light is visible the lamp is malfunctioning.

UV-C will not pass through most materials. Drinking containers made from glass, ceramic, metal, and nearly all plastics block UV-C transmission. Also, the underside of the air/water interface in a water container acts as a very effective reflector for UV-C. As a result, when SteriPEN's lamp is immersed in virtually any drinking vessel, the UV-C is well contained. Note that SteriPEN's water sensors prevent it from operating unless the lamp is completely immersed.

While very few materials are transparent to UV-C, there are a small number of uncommon materials that are. These include optical grade quartz (the SteriPEN lamp material) and a few fluoropolymers in the Teflon family -- both unlikely materials to be used for drinking containers.

How effective is SteriPEN?
Steripen is highly effective. SteriPEN's microbiological effectiveness has been tested at A & L Laboratory as well as 4 universities (University of Maine, University of Arizona, Oregon Health Sciences University, Ryerson University - Toronto Canada). Used as directed, SteriPEN has been shown to destroy over: 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses and 99.9% of protozoa (i.e. Giardia and Cryptosporidium). These levels of destruction exceed the requirements of the US EPA's Guide Standard and Protocol for Testing Microbiological Water Purifiers.

Why do I have to stir/agitate the water while I use the SteriPEN?
During a SteriPEN treatment it is important to agitate the water by stirring gently with the SteriPEN. Stirring of the water insures uniform UV treatment. Also, SteriPEN is intended for use in clear water.

Water with significant discoloration or particulates can reduce effectiveness of SteriPEN by inhibiting the penetration of UV light through the water. Many people coarsely filter their water with a coffee filter or bandana if there is sediment in the water. If the sediment is very fine, like suspended talcum powder, it often needs to be allowed to settle to the bottom, whether using SteriPEN or another type of water treatment.

Hydro-Photon, Inc. also offers the SteriPEN Water Bottle Pre-Filter to filter out particulates (down to the size of ground pepper). The Pre-Filter fits most wide mouth water bottles and contains a 4 micron screen.

How fast does the SteriPEN work?
SteriPEN has an onboard microcomputer that controls operation time. It also has temperature sensors. The user must decide on one of two volume choices -- either 16 oz (0.5 liter) or less or between 16 oz (0.5 liter) and 32 oz (1 liter). Then, the user pushes the activation button and submerses the lamp in water. Once the sensor pins come in contact with water, the lamp is activated. SteriPEN automatically delivers the appropriate dose duration and then shuts off. There is no need for the user to time the operation. SteriPEN's dose time ranges from 38 to 48 seconds for 16 ounces (1/2 liter) to 90 seconds for 1 quart (or 1 liter). This is far faster than chemical treatments that can take up to 4 hours. SteriPEN is also generally quicker -- and certainly far easier -- than pump filters, as there is no pumping and no filters to clean. It is also worth noting that SteriPEN's speed and ease of operation makes it useful in places where filters and chemicals are out of place such as restaurants and cruise ships.

Can SteriPEN be used in cold temperatures?
Yes. SteriPEN has been successfully used on mountains all over the world -- including Kilimanjaro and Everest. If the ambient temperature is below 32°F (0°C) we suggest that you carry the SteriPEN in your pocket to keep it warm. SteriPEN hasn't been tested in temperatures as extreme as -40°F (which is also the same as -40°C). While we are not aware of any reason that this extreme cold temperature would be harmful to SteriPEN, we know of no batteries that function well at -40°F.

Will the SteriPEN be effective in water from YOUR location?
Yes.

When should I take a SteriPEN with me?
Whenever you are concerned about the water, it is a good idea to carry a SteriPEN. Whether your source is a mountain stream or a hotel room tap, SteriPEN will make the water safe.

Why should I take a SteriPEN instead of a pump, filter or chemicals?
SteriPEN is fast, light, easy and highly effective. Compared to chemicals, SteriPEN is has no chemical taste or odor and no long term health effects like iodine. Also, SteriPEN is much faster in that it can accomplish in 90 seconds what chemicals take up to 4 hours to complete. Compared to filters, SteriPEN is more effective in that most filters do not remove viruses. In addition, SteriPEN is less than the weight and much easier to use than most filters.

Does the SteriPEN effect taste or add any chemicals?
SteriPEN disinfects with light only. No chemicals are needed. By not using chemicals, SteriPEN avoids problems of chemical toxicity and unpleasant chemical taste and smell.

What type of containers can I use my SteriPEN in?
Containers made from glass, ceramic, metal and nearly all plastics block UV-C transmission and therefore are ok to use. There are a small number of uncommon materials that are transparent to UV-C light. These include optical grade quartz (the SteriPEN lamp material) and a few fluoropolymers in the Teflon family. Containers made from these materials should not be used with SteriPEN (if you have such containers you will know it. They’re not commonly sold at outdoor/camping stores).

Can I use my SteriPEN in my hydration bladder?
SteriPEN is not designed for use in hydration bladders. However, it can treat water before it is added to a hydration bladder or as it is removed.

Can I carry my SteriPEN on an airplane?
Yes you can take a SteriPEN in your carryon when traveling by airplane. Many of our employees, families, friends, and customers have traveled with SteriPENs personally. We would recommend simply carrying the users manual with the SteriPEN so if questions do arise it is easy to explain and show what the product is and does!

Do the SteriPEN products come with Batteries?
The JourneyLCD model DOES come with 2 disposable CR123 Batteries. The SteriPEN Classic does NOT come with batteries.

Where can I buy batteries?
CLASSIC: we recommend the use of Nickel Metal Hydride rechargeables or lithium AA batteries. These batteries are available in most grocery and drug stores.

JOURNEY: we recommend using leading CR123 batteries such as Energizer and Panasonic which are available in many grocery and drug stores as well as photography shops.

Does the SteriPEN take care of the water droplets on the threads of my water bottle?
SteriPEN does not purify the threads of a water bottle. Users should use their finger or a piece of cloth such as a bandana to wipe off the threads of a bottle before drinking.

Another way to address this issue is to use our Pre-Filter. Our Pre-Filter attaches to the opening of a standard wide moth Nalgene type bottle. The Pre-Filter is designed to keep the threads dry while submerging the bottle into your water supply.

Is SteriPEN certified?
SteriPEN has been tested by Intertek Testing Service to all relevant US and international standards. SteriPEN conforms to: UL Standard UL 61010B-1, Conforms to EN 61010-1: 1993 + A1 + A2. Certified to CAN/CSA C22.2 No. 1010.1-92, Listed 3058969 (that means Yes it has).
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