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High-Tech Filters Redefine Water Purity
By Brad Frischkorn

How pure is pure? When it comes to drinking water, Japanese technology is helping to reset the bar.

Engineers at Syouei Wellness Co., Ltd. have developed a purifying machine that can turn the dirtiest cup of swill into a refreshing beverage. It may not be the same as turning water into wine, but for evacuees and victims of natural disasters who find themselves without access to urban amenities, it could be a godsend.

The Tokyo-based company showcased its flagship enriched hydrogen water server at the CareTEX 2016 exposition held in mid-March at Odaiba, Tokyo. The 36kg standup unit is fed from tap water, and delivers cold or hot drinking water while adding vitality-enhancing hydrogen to a maximum concentration of 2.8 parts per million (ppm).

A patented modular filtering technology is what makes the machine special, as it eliminates virtual all impurities, including harmful radioactive isotopes.

"The benefits of the machine are easy for people to understand, especially after the 2011 nuclear crisis," says Syouei Wellness sales head Muneaki Furukawa. "It showed that not having access to a reliable source of clean drinking water can itself be a disaster."

Memories of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown remain indelibly etched into the memories of many Japanese. Radiation was released from reactor containment vessels, including iodine-131 and cesium-134 and -137, as a result of venting to reduce gaseous pressure and the discharge of coolant water into the sea.

Trade winds pushed most of the debris away from land, but most parts of eastern Japan still suffered some form of contamination. And while few cancers are expected as a result of the radiation exposure received by the public, the nation's third nuclear incident (counting the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945) has served to keep intergenerational nuclear awareness high.

Iodine poses a special threat to public health because it has a high fission yield and accumulates readily in the thyroid in mammals, especially children, according to pediatricians.

Mr. Furukawa notes that the company fields about 100 inquiries per month for the water server. "The radiation fear is not going away, while there is increased awareness of the benefits of enriched hydrogen drinking water, as it really makes people feel better over time," he says, acknowledging that long-term studies on hydrogen have yet to be completed.

Early data look promising, however, and may include an array of benefits, including an increase in antioxidant enzymes that prevent aging, as well as improved glucose metabolism. The Syouei Wellness machine boosts hydrogen concentration by about 50% over tap water levels.

In addition to neutralizing radioisotopes, the server's four-canister filtering system includes NASA-developed technology that also removes sediment, pollen, fungus, chlorine, mercury, heavy metals, and viruses while improving the overall taste. The entire system retails for ¥599,000. The filter set can be replaced for ¥24,000.

"It's easy to overlook the benefits of high quality drinking water, especially when people suddenly find themselves without it," says Mr. Furukawa. "But first off, it needs to taste good."

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“The 2011 nuclear crisis showed that not having access to a reliable source of clean drinking water can itself be a disaster.” -- Muneaki Furukawa

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