Dear Katadyn,

I have recently become concerned over the impurities in public drinking water, and did research on the most environmentally friendly microfilter I could use to protect my children from bacterial dangers. I recently purchased one of your Hiker model Katadyn microfilters and was very excited to start being more environmentally conscious, while at the same time enjoying natural and pure water.

My youngest son, Aaron, went on a class field trip to the stockyards in Milwaukee last week, and I sent him off with our new water filter in his lunch sack, along with a sandwich and a fruit rollup. During the lunch break, Aaron found some water that had collected on the ground, and filtered it using the water filter. To my astonishment, he became violently ill later that night, and was so sick the next day that he missed the Science Fair. Aaron was very upset, because he had worked awfully hard on his project on bacterial growth, and no one got to see the bacterial colonies that he grew from a culture.

Is it possible that we received a contaminated outlet hose from the factory? I noticed on the unit that it said “made in Sweden”, and I have a Swedish friend who never washes her hands after using the lavatory. Have your other customers had similar problems with this unit?

Sincerely,
Linda B. Wilson

Linda,

Your inquiry is important and I hope that your son is doing better. It’s unfortunate that this coincided with the Science Fair that was so important to him.

To answer your questions, each Katadyn Hiker is tested at the factory prior to shipment. While I guess it is possible that a contamination could occur in an outlet hose, we have not seen this in 10+ years of Hiker production. We very rarely hear of people getting sick but when we ask return questions, our experience has been that the illness seems to come from other causes. Following are some questions that we ask:

  • Was he tested by a Doctor? This will often point the cause in a right direction.
  • Did he sanitize his hands carefully after using the bathroom?
  • Did any untreated water touch his hands, lips or edge of water container? This would especially be true in ground water in a stocklyard.
  • Was the output hose ever in contact with contaminated water?
  • In his case, did anyone else get sick during this field trip?

Our intent is not to pass any blame but to identify that there are many ways that people can get sick. For people who camp, for example, it is common thought that far more people get sick from unsanitary conditions (not washing hands) than bad food or water.

Another comment - hopefully, your son read the product instructions carefully and, as they suggest, used it at home before using it in the field. Especially when potentially contaminated water from a puddle at a stockyard. While these products can do great things, they typically are used in rivers, lakes etc. In unusually challenging conditions, the instructions say that it is always prudent to use a purification tablet in addition to a filter of any brand. No water filter will remove all viruses, for example.

On a separate note, I’m curious about the made in Sweden question. Our products are not produced in Sweden. All Katadyn Hikers are made in Switzerland.

We will replace your Hiker if you want. If you still believe that the filter may be the cause, we can communicate further and perhaps agree to send it back to Switzerland and have it tested in our laboratory.

Anyway, again my condolences to your son. Please let me know how you would like us to proceed.

Sincerely,
Alan Lizee
Chairman
Katadyn North America

Dear Alan,

Thank you so much for your reply.

Aaron is doing much better. There were a couple of days where things weren’t looking good, but his color is finally returning, and he’s regaining some of his appetite.

When Aaron first fell ill, my husband (who is a doctor) found a substitute teacher to teach his Intro To Biology class so he could take care of Aaron. He seemed to think his illness had something to do with some bacteria that the filter didn’t catch, if that helps.

I really appreciate your willingness to try and get to the bottom of this situation. When is a good time for us to fly into Switzerland to get Aaron examined in your laboratory? Does Katadyn have private jets, or will we be flying with one of the major airlines?

What kind of tests will need to be run? If his symptoms subside before our flight, is that all right? I’ll be in Milwaukee in a few days for work, and I could stop by the stockyards and collect some more water, if that would help.

Sincerely,
Linda B. Wilson

Linda, I must assume that you are kidding. Did you read my message to you? There are many ways that a person can get sick and have the symptoms that your son had. If, after reading all of the potential reasons, including your son carefully reading the manual and taking all precautions, you still truly believe that the filter may be to blame, I offered to perhaps test the filter. There is no scenario where we will fly your son to Switzerland.

In fact, before proceeding, we’ll need to talk to your son to learn more. Also, we would need to learn what a doctor said and review test results since with this serious situation, we assume that you had him tested by a doctor.

The next step is to review the results that you received from a doctor before we proceed. And, if we proceed in any way, it would involve returning your Hiker to us for careful examination and potential testing.

Sincerely,
Alan Lizee

Dear Alan,

I think I owe you an apology. I misunderstood your previous email, and assumed Katadyn would be flying my family to Switzerland for testing. I’m embarrassed to admit that I already started packing and learning the language. My daughter was excited to visit IKEA headquarters, too. This news will be disappointing to my whole family.

What kind of questions will you need to ask my son? He is a very curious eight year old, and I’m sure he will be excited to talk to someone from another country.

I understand your need to get more information on this matter, and appreciate your persistence. I referred to my husband’s expert diagnosis in a previous email, is there other documentation that he should provide? He could write something up using official university letterhead describing Aaron’s symptoms, if that would help.

Again, I’m so sorry about the travel misunderstanding. Or as the Swedish say, Så lessen!

Sincerely,
Linda B. Wilson

Linda,

I think that we should resolve this issue. I initially asked a variety of questions about potential ways that your son may have become sick after drinking water from a puddle in an animal stockyard. The most important question was if he carefully read the instructions, especially the part of how to use the filter. Then, depending on the situation, we would perhaps return the unit to Switzerland for testing. You did not answer any of the questions and interpreted my letter as an offer to fly your family to Switzerland, perhaps in a private jet. You say that you already started packing and learning the language. Our communication gap is great.

Please return your filter to the address below. Enclose the receipt from your purchase and we will pay you a full refund. At that time, we’ll decide if we think that your filter warrants further microbiological testing. If you provide your address, we’ll send a prepaid UPS shipping label so you do not incur any shipping costs.

Sincerely,
Alan Lizee

Dear Alan,

Last night at dinner, Aaron was talking about his field trip, and I was asking him questions in order to make sure that his illness was caused by a faulty water filter. Apparently on the bus ride home that afternoon, some of his classmates found a package of spoiled hot dogs on the floor, and dared Aaron to eat some.

Aaron refused at first, as we’re Jewish and he knows that pork products are not allowed. But when the other children triple-dog-dared Aaron to eat some hot dogs, he could not resist. This might be the actual cause for his illness.

That is the least of our worries right now, though, as Rabbi Hershkop has banned us from Temple service this week. He claims Aaron’s spirit has been tainted!

I am extremely embarrassed to have wasted your time with this matter, and I appreciate your patience. Aaron is very sorry for lying, and will be punished.

Sincerely,
Linda Wilson

P.S. If anyone in your US office is moving to your headquarters in Switzerland and wants to learn Swedish, I have a copy of Rosetta Stone’s “Learn Swedish” software that I won’t be needing anymore.

Linda,

Thank you for your response. I wish you and your family the best in the future.

Alan

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