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#194933 - 02/02/10 06:00 AM Potassium Permanganate Crystals
WILD_WEASEL Offline
Member

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 105
Loc: Afghanistan
Does Potassium Permanganate still have a place in survival kits? Other than an episode of Survivorman where Les Stroud used Potassium Permanganate and Glycerin to ignite Rhinoceros dung and the recollection of a WWII veteran who told me the corpsman used it in unspecified solution to treat fungal infections, Iíve been unable to locate any data on its use for water sterilization and as a disinfectant. It would seem that youíd be better off including MicroPur tables and a sachet of antibiotic/antifungal ointment.

Cheers,
W-W
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#194935 - 02/02/10 06:23 AM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: WILD_WEASEL]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
I guess it's fine for fungal infections, but for water purification, it can be rather iffy. The temperature and the pH of the water can affect the results when using it for purification, although it does have value for removing objectionable tastes and odors.

It seems to kill most bacteria, but you may have to increase the dosage and let the water stand up to 24 hrs, and the acidity/alkalinity of the water can affect the results.

It is less reliable on viruses.

From the EPA on use for killing protazoan parasites such as giardia and cryptosporidium:
"No information pertaining to protozoa inactivation by potassium permanganate is available in the literature. However, based on the other disinfectants discussed in this report, protozoa are
significantly more resistant than viruses; therefore, it is likely that the dosages and contact times required for protozoa inactivation would be impractical."
http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw000/mdbp/pdf/alter/chapt_5.pdf

So, I would think if you have something better available, it would be advisable to use it.

Sue

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#195005 - 02/02/10 11:13 PM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: WILD_WEASEL]
Leigh_Ratcliffe Offline
Veteran

Registered: 03/31/06
Posts: 1355
Loc: United Kingdom.
When the SAS hand book was written, permangenate was one of a limited number of (poor) choices. These days use MP-1 tablets if availible.

Fire lighting is a party trick - carry a bic or a Zippo!

One use it does have is as a dye marker for Artic rescue. Mixed with snow a little goes a long way.
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#195059 - 02/03/10 11:16 PM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: Leigh_Ratcliffe]
PureSurvival Offline
Member

Registered: 02/21/09
Posts: 149
Loc: UK
The most sensible conversation I have seen on Potassium Permanganate in a long time. No there is not a place for it in our survival kits.

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#195118 - 02/04/10 11:11 PM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: PureSurvival]
Art_in_FL Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
Potassium Permanganate isn't bad to have around. But it isn't really the first, or even third, choice for water treatment. My current thinking is that there is not much use for it in of short term survival use.

A few grams in the medical kit allows you to make quite a large quantity of anti-fungal solution to treat athlete's foot, 'gook sores', ringworm. Hard to say how much a gram will make. I mix it by sight. A light pink color is about right for foot fungus and figure a gram might make a quart or two of anti-fungal solution. Mixed up an ounce or two at a time you might have thirty treatments in a five gram supply. Which makes it very efficient in terms of weight and bulk.

Potassium permanganate, sodium hypochlorite powder and iodine crystals have a place in longer term situation. Particularly where there are numbers of people.

Of course you have to be careful. If you do use potassium permanganate you don't want to get it on your hands and don't allow it to contact other materials. Potassium permanganate is a strong oxidizer and it can cause many common materials to smoke, catch fire, and potentially, explode. You don't want to let it, or any of these chemicals, to get away from you.

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#195155 - 02/05/10 04:06 PM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: Art_in_FL]
Mike_H Offline
Addict

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 612
Loc: SE PA
I do keep a small vial of it in my kit due to multiple use aspect. Even if only for something as simple as dying snow as a signal it would be worth it since a little goes a long way.
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#195169 - 02/05/10 06:55 PM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: Mike_H]
PureSurvival Offline
Member

Registered: 02/21/09
Posts: 149
Loc: UK
Quote:
A few grams in the medical kit allow you to make quite a large quantity of anti-fungal solution to treat athlete's foot, 'gook sores', ringworm. Hard to say how much a gram will make. I mix it by sight. A light pink color is about right for foot fungus and figure a gram might make a quart or two of anti-fungal solution. Mixed up an ounce or two at a time you might have thirty treatments in a five gram supply. Which makes it very efficient in terms of weight and bulk.


With fungal infections prevention is better than cure. Wash your feet daily. If you use water purification tablets use a small amount of this water once it has fully activated in the water to wash your hi risk areas. The water will still have enough chlorine in it to deal with any nasties.

Using PP on your feet actually weakens the skin and causes cracking and pitting which allows infection in. I used it years ago to try to help combat a fungal infection whilst on a survival course on Dartmoor. The PP softened the skin and allowed the infection to go deeper into the skin. It also softened the skin which rubbed off into little skin balls taking away the dead skin protection. Meaning I was getting blisters a lot faster. This softened weaker skin holds water so makes it nearly imposable to dry your feet which again helped the fungal to spread and increased the blister problem. And, on top of that the skin started to crack around the nails and toes. It got to the point I could not walk from the pain. I ended sitting down for 48 hours with my feet exposed to let them air dry before I could weigh bare on them again. I learnt a valuable lesson on that course.

After the course I was talking to one of the range staff, an old boy that had left the Army but never actually leaves but becomes part of the woodwork. He asked why I was in so much pain. I told him and his reply was very clear. ďNever listen to the staff or believe the manuals, they donít have the experience in most cases, if they did they would not tell you this stuff.Ē

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#195216 - 02/06/10 03:39 AM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: PureSurvival]
Art_in_FL Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
Sounds like you might have used a solution of potassium permanganate that was too strong. The solution should be a very light pink. Too strong and it removes the fats from the skin and causes the symptoms you describe. Naphtha, like from an overfilled Zippo, has a similar effect. The skin dries, cracks, peels and leaves a red and raw area that takes a long time to heal. Potassium permanganate is strong stuff so if you use it lean toward a weaker solution.

It shouldn't redden or excessively dry the skin. Potassium permanganate is more appropriate for a fairly serious fungal infection not routine maintenance. But the solution just performs a knockdown function. You need to follow with extra care keeping the area clean and dry while the normal flora reestablish. I have found that zinc oxide is a good follow up and general preventative. In the field, particularly when I can't wash, I smear on a light coat of zinc oxide on the groin and between the fourth and little toes once or twice a day as a preventative. Don't let the potassium permanganate crystals contact the zinc oxide, or any other compounds.

In my experience the key to avoiding a flare up of athlete's foot or crotch corrosion is to avoid contact with soap. Wash those areas with water alone. Enough soapy water will wash down on groin and feet during a shower to take the human grease off. And after all else, before stepping out, rinse off again to remove every trace of soap.


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#195224 - 02/06/10 04:05 AM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: Art_in_FL]
thseng Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/24/06
Posts: 899
Loc: NW NJ
I would venture to say that potassium permanganate ended up in survival kits as a fire-starter the same way a battery and steel wool or a magnifying glass did. Some survial manual somewhere thought it would be helpful to mention that if you happened to have some potassium permanganate handy, it could be used to start a fire.

For some reason, suggested possible improvisations tend to transform into reccomendations.

Another example that comes to mind is garbage bags. If you're throwing together a survival kit quick and cheap, go under the kitchen sink and steal a few garbage bags. They cost next to nothing and they are better than nothing.

It totally defeats the purpose to go online and pay shipping for special heavy-duty blaze orange garbage bags!
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Mora Knives & Adventurer Series Survival Gear

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#195242 - 02/06/10 02:58 PM Re: Potassium Permanganate Crystals [Re: thseng]
PureSurvival Offline
Member

Registered: 02/21/09
Posts: 149
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: Art_in_FL
Sounds like you might have used a solution of potassium permanganate that was too strong.
The solution should be a very light pink. Too strong and it removes the fats from the skin and causes the symptoms you describe. Naphtha, like from an overfilled Zippo, has a similar effect. The skin dries, cracks, peels and leaves a red and raw area that takes a long time to heal. Potassium permanganate is strong stuff so if you use it lean toward a weaker solution.


An interesting statement and one that highlights the problem with PP perfectly; thanks for posting.

On those early military survival courses we were shown 5 different mixes to show the colour to mix the PP for use as water treatment to severe fungal infection. They are very few demonstrations of colour to mix kicking around. Even if there was, mixing a colour is very subjective.

PP is a cytotoxic like hydrogen peroxide, iodine and betadine. They kill cells slowing down healing and increases infection. PP and hydrogen peroxide have no place in a first aid kit or survival kit.

PP was a poor solution to a problem but as technology has improved there are far better and safer solutions to those same problems available. PP kills a small number of bacteria and viruses but many bacteria and parasites can survive PP treatment. Vibro cholerae organisms is just one. Studies have also found that PP need higher doses than survival manuals suggest and longer contact times of two hours or longer. Which brings up an interesting point, have you ever seen contact times suggested in the survival manuals. I was told at least 30 mins. PPís use in water treatment plants is not as a disinfectant.

This is why PP is not found in military or professional survival kits nowadays. I have not checked but I would be extremely surprised Doug includes PP in any of his kits.

Unfortunately most peoples experience of survival is from rehashed information taken from military survival manuals written 50 + years ago so it is no wonder old techniques, mistakes and miss information keeps being dragged into modern thinking.

There is a very interesting survival use for PP that was never written in any of the survival manuals but is very relevant to survival. I was told of it on one survival course years ago. I know of no reference of this in a survival context on the internet at all but it is described in some old documents for an industry it was used in. I have been told by people that were around at the time that the UK government even suggested it in their public information during WW2, although I have never been able to confirm this. It has never been rehashed and the practice is now illegal, at least in the UK. I do know that it was taught in US and UK survival courses during WW2 (not that they were actually survival course as we know them today) and into the 50s. That said it is a little impractical and I would never consider it as a viable option.

Out of interest if you know of this use, please PM me telling me what it is and where you heard it. If you donít know what it is donít guess because I wonít tell you.

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