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Current IssueSeptember 02, 2015
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Ask The Expert: Sucking on a Straw
Question: I was given a box of 70 survival straws made by a company named United Products of America in Bartow, Fla. I can't find any information on this company and don't know if they are in business today. It is called the 100% Alloy Survival Straw and has a canister the size of a film canister with a straw (tube) coming out of one end. In the canister is a small amount of what looks like brass wool with a small felt disk separating the wool from the straw. Its EPA EST is 67814-FL-001. This system claims a United Alloy Media a natural bacteriostatic. Destroys greater than 99.85 bacteria, 99.999 ethylene dibromide, chlorine, bad taste, odor, water soluble heavy metals, pesticides, arsenic, mercury. It appears too porous to provide this kind of filtration. I would hate to discard all these devices because I am unsure of their reliability.

Bill Potter -- Bradenton, Fla. 

Answer: It sounds like you have a product similar to KDF wool but KDF itself is not from United Alloy Media, nor have I ever heard of them. KDF-55 is bacteriostatic nad removes chlorine and KDF-85 removes some heavy metals but I'm skeptical of the pesticide and arsenic claims. Given the broad claims I would be skeptical.

I did check with the USEPA Safe Water Hotline, a toll-free number that provides consumer information and was directed to the National Anti-Microbial Information Network, which is affiliated with the USEPA Office of Pesticides Program (OPP), at (800) 447-6349. The OPP hotline service is run through Oregon State University. I was informed that the above "EST" number is an "Establishment" number for products that make "pesticidal" claims. Under more stringent requirements, a registration or "REG" number is also required, which means the company had to provide a higher level of documentation and undergo a plant inspection as to its product claims. An EST number is a lesser registration that may or may not require an audit of the company's records supporting its claims. This is frequently the case for a "device" rather than a "whole system" and is governed by "40 CFR 150-189" of the Code of Federal Regulations. The service uses five databases from silverplatter.com to research information, among them being PESTBANK, which is compiled at Purdue University's Center for Environmental and Regulatory Information System (CERIS) and updated quarterly under the auspices of the USEPA.

I was told that there are no products of United Products of America actively registered under this program, which would indicate the straws were defined as a "device," i.e., explaining the EST number. Further, searching for the company under several Internet search engines turned up nothing for a business of that name. When I searched for United Alloy Media, however, I came up with: www.alloysafe.com/alloysafe004.htm

At this website, AlloySafe of Padukah, Ky., sells survival straws for $39.95, promoting them for outdoor camping or emergency use, with much the same performance claims as listed above. In addition to stating that it meets USEPA and Food and Drug Administration approvals, the site says the product is listed with the American Public Health Association (APHA). In checking with APHA, I found that the organization does not list or certify products.

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