The LifeStraw makes dirty water clean
By Mike Hanlon
January 12, 2005
More than one billion people – one sixth of the world’s population - are without access to safe water supply. At any given moment, about half of the world's poor are suffering from waterborne diseases, of which over 6,000 – mainly children – die each day by consuming unsafe drinking water. The world’s most prolific killer though is diarrhoeal disease from bacteria like typhoid, cholera, e. coli, salmonella and many others. Safe water interventions have vast potential to transform the lives of millions, especially in crucial areas such as poverty eradication, environmental upgradation, quality of life, child development and gender equality. LifeStraw was developed as a practical response to the billions of people who are still without access to these basic human rights.
The aptly-named LifeStraw is an invention that could become one of the greatest life-savers in history. It is a 25 cm long, 29 mm diameter, plastic pipe filter and costs just a few dollars (the manufacturers originally informed us the price was around US$2.00 but the price is now under review and we'll be posting a new price shortly. The most prolific killer of human beings in developed countries is the automobile, followed by a host of diseases resulting mainly from an indulgent lifestyle.
Millions of people perish every year because they simply don’t have clean water to drink. Until now, there was not much we could do about this because systems to clean water were costly and required electricity and spare parts and and and … but the LifeStraw now offers a viable means of saving tens of millions of lives every year.
LifeStraw is a personal, low-cost water purification tool with a life time of 700 litres – approximately one year of water consumption for one person. Positive test results have been achieved on tap, turbid and saline water against common waterborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus and Staphylococcu.
If we (as in the big WE) can find a way of manufacturing and distributing one of these to each human at risk, every year, we could save countless lives (now there’s a noble outcome for the tech blogs and mags of the world to work together to promote this). Each LifeStraw lasts for one person’s annual needs of clean water – a simple straw costing a few dollars will ensure that one at-risk person will not die for a year - now that's a donation we can all make with a serious kicker!
This LifeStraw was designed with special emphasize on avoiding any moving parts, as a sealed unit with no replaceable spare parts, and avoiding the use of electricity, which does not exist in many areas in the 3rd world. But as force (power) is required to implement the filtering, Vestergaard Frandsen chose to use the natural source of sucking, that even babies are able to perform. A brief technical rundown is available at MedGadget, the internet journal of emerging medical technologies.
Vestergaard Frandsen have managed to produce this product at a price that people in this business find hard to believe, but believed it had to achieve a price affordable to the Third World consumer.
The original idea was created ten years ago by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen, but over the years in partnersjhip with The Carter Center, Rob Fleuren from Holland and Moshe Frommer from Israel, the Lifestraw emerged from work designed to make water filters capable of safeguarding against Guinea Worm. The invention which emanated from the work, the, LifeStraw, can keep away bacteria and diseases like diphtheria, cholera and diarrhoea.
We’ll have more information on LifeStraw in the next week . In the meantime, LifeStraw has been nominated for a prestigious and vitally important INDEX: AWARDS
INDEX: Awards focus specifically on design that significantly improves life for a large number of people and there’s a lot more information available in their nomination lists on the LifeStraw.
The LifeStraw web site is now open. Our suggestion is that if you are involved in a charity or community group, you make your group aware of this invention and its potential to improve the lives of millions of our less fortunate planetary brethren.
In the meantime, LifeStraw supplied this list of FAQs
Q1. What is LifeStraw? LifeStraw is a portable water purification tool that cleanses surface water and makes it safe for human consumption. It is just 25 cm long and 29 mm in diameter and can be hung around the neck. LifeStraw requires no electrical power or spare parts.
Q2. What does LifeStraw do? LifeStraw filters up to 700 litres of water and effectively removes most of the micro organisms responsible for causing waterborne diseases.
Q3. Which diseases will LifeStraw prevent? LifeStraw kills disease causing micro organisms which spread diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid, and Cholera.
Q4. Which disease-causing micro organisms are filtered by LifeStraw? LifeStraw filters bacteria such as Shigella, Salmonella, Enterrococus, Staphylococcus Aureus and E.Coli
Q5. Are there any tests to prove this? LifeStraw has been tested by independent and qualified research laboratories.
Q6. How does LifeStraw function? LifeStraw contains PuroTech Disinfecting Resin (PDR) - a patented, extraordinarily effective material that kills bacteria on contact. Textile pre-filters are used in the LifeStraw to remove particles up to 15 microns. Active carbon withholds particles such as parasites.
Q7. What do the tests and research studies indicate? The studies indicate the following:
The level of bacteria in the water will be reduced to levels that will provide water safe for human consumption. ‘Safe’ implies water from which any health risk is minimal. The particulate removal suggests that the number of any parasitic ova in raw water will also be reduced significantly. The released amount of iodine in water treated from LifeStraw is not normally damaging to human health. However, people having thyroid problems and allergic reaction to iodine must seek medical advice before using this tool.
Q8. What is the life expectancy of the LifeStraw? One year from the start of usage (calculation based on consumption of 2 litre water per day) or 700 liters. Use beyond expiry will not deteriorate existing water quality.
Q9. What is the required daily water consumption? The WHO default levels for the quantities of drinking water (reference to WHO drinking water quality guidelines Third edition 2004, Annex III), are: For a 10 kg child, 1 litre water per day - thus 700 days tool For a 60 kg adult, 2 litre water per day - thus a 350 days tool
Q10. Who can use the LifeStraw? Adults and children of any age can use the LifeStraw, provided they have capacity to suck water
Q11. How should LifeStraw be used the first time? First time users are advised to spit out the first couple of mouthfuls (40 ml) as a small amount of harmless black carbon water will be expelled on initial use. First time users may find it difficult to start sucking. This is because a natural brake on the flow of water has been put into the LifeStraw, as a controlled flow between 100 ml to 150 ml per minute is needed to get the maximum benefit of the bacteria killing effect.
Q12. How can LifeStraw be effectively utilised? At regular intervals, it is recommended to blow out the last mouthful of water as well as some air through the LifeStraw. This will clean the pre-filters of whatever sand, silt and debris that might have got stuck in the textile filters.
Q13. Does LifeStraw filter arsenic, iron, fluoride and other heavy metals? No. Q14. What is the impact of saline water on the lifetime of LifeStraw? It is expected that continuously drinking saline water through the LifeStraw would reduce effective life to 350 litres.
Q15. Can I share my LifeStraw with other people? It is not recommended that you share your LifeStraw with others. Any outside contamination of the LifeStraw will not be compensated by inside purification.