U.S. Water News Online
NEW YORK -- Standing next to a portrait of madcap comedians
Chevy Chase and Dan Acroyd, Donald Podrebarac struggled to reassure
reporters gathered to learn about his company's PurTest home testing
kit for anthrax.
The chief executive of Vital Living Products, a maker of water
testing kits, chose the Friar's Club comedy venue to show off the
product, which he said will give Americans a sense of relief from the
alarm created by recent germ warfare attacks.
Podrebarac sought to counter scientists who doubt the test's
efficacy and say it might create a false sense of security or even
endanger those who rely on it to detect anthrax, which has killed
three people in the United States.
He said on several occasions that the kit was not intended to
replace laboratory tests for anthrax.
As reporters asked about the veracity of results from the kit
Vital Living expects to go on sale at between $19 and $25 by
Thanksgiving, Podrebarac fumbled under the podium in search of a
sample test to show what a positive result looks like.
"Where is it?" he asked, followed by the sound of a cellophane bag
rumpling. Then Podrebarac held up a plastic bottle of bright yellow
"Don't spill it!" someone said in jest, as Podrebarac assured the
crowd that the liquid inside is not anthrax, but just water.
Testing for anthrax in the air, water and on surfaces requires
mixing a red solution with water and letting it stand for 24 to 48
hours between room temperature and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer
the room, the sooner the results.
"Our product is not intended to add to the fear factor,"
If the liquid turns yellow, indicating a positive result,
instructions tell consumers not to panic, he said.
"We just want to give Americans the tools that our government is
saying we should have and to show the terrorist that the American
business community will fight back," he said.
Podrebarac refused to reveal the test's methodology because he
said the company had received "suspicious" phone calls. Vital Living
said PurTest Anthrax Test currently returns false positive results
about 5 percent of the time.
"We're working on reducing the false positive and false negative
results," he said.
Scientists are skeptical about the efficacy of the test.
"I wouldn't trust it at all," said Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, a
forensic scientist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New
What troubles Kobilinsky the most is Vital Living's claim the kit
will test for both germs and spores, organisms whose surface proteins
are often markedly different. Moreover, leaving the test in your
living room for up to 48 hours as the company recommends can be
dangerous, Kobilinsky said.
"If there are spores they will open and germinate and will grow
very fast. Those are not things to play with. The public should not
go out and spend their money on this until it has been approved by
the appropriate federal authorities," he said.
ACE Hardware Corp. stores and the Meijers Inc. supermarket chain
in Michigan plan to sell the kit, the company said. Podrebarac hopes
it doesn't sell, though he said he expects it will be its
"I hope there is no occasion for it at all," he said. "If you look
at our little company a few short weeks ago things were looking very
different, but now we're standing on the edge of a new horizon."
In August, Vital Living reported second-quarter losses of
$445,897, three times greater than its year-earlier losses. Revenues
rose 27 percent to $644,350.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Vital
Living said it expected to require additional financing to fund
operations through the year.
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