LifeStraw - A life changing, life saving gadget!

The LifeStraw water purifier

I don't know what they talked about last week in Stockholm, but hopefully news of the LifeStraw reached the world's diverse water community as well. The LifeStraw is a water purification tool that has the potential of becoming one of the greatest life-savers in modern history.

Hardly a day goes by without one or another company announcing the life changing innovations in their soon to be released gadget, be it a revolutionary mp3 player or an even smaller cell-phone. How the various marketing departments justify the usage of that wording is beyond me, a 43g lighter media player or another gigabyte of storage can hardly be called life changing. Nope; leave it to a Danish textile company to come up with a truly life changing gadget.

Vestergaard-Frandsen have spent ten years on research and development of a tool they describe as a portable water purification tool. The (aptly named) LifeStraw, a 25 cm long pipe filter currently being field tested, will be able to purify1 one adult persons annual need of clean water. The tool has no moving parts (no need for spare parts) and doesn't require electricity, as such it's very suitable for usage in areas of the world where the need for water purification is the highest.

Woman demonstrating the usage of the LifeStraw water purifierThe worlds greatest killer is diarrhoeal diseases from bacteria like typhoid, cholera, e. coli, salmonella etc. With LifeStraw, which lasts for one persons annual needs of clean water, nobody needs to die from these diseases. This design is made with special emphasize on avoiding any moving parts, to disregard spare parts, and to avoid the use of electricity, which does not exist in many areas in the 3rd world. But as you need force to implement the filtering, we have chosen to use the natural source of sucking, that even babies are able to perform. We have managed to produce this product at a price that people in this business find hard to believe, but we have found it essential to be able to present a price to the consumer in the 3rd world that they find affordable. When fully used in the 3rd world this will indeed be a LifeSaver.

Water being sucked through the pipe is filtered in several processes/chambers. Firstly water goes through a textile filter that removes larger objects and clusters of bacterias. From there water is led through iodine impregnated beads to a void chamber where the iodine continues its effect. Lastly the water is led through a chamber with granulated active carbon that removes the bad smell (introduced by the iodine) and take out parasites that haven't already been killed earlier in the process.

With lack of access to clean water being one of the largest treats2 to people living in developing countries of the world, the LifeStraw truly deserves the description of being a life changing gadget. Potentially one of the greatest life-savers in modern history.

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! (...) A brief technical rundown is available at MedGadget...

Oh; I first came across the news of the LifeStraw in a blog post over at Engadget... ;-)

Footnotes

  1. Positive test results have been achieved on tap, turbid and saline water against common waterborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus and Staphylococcus Thus, it's an effective tool against many of the major diseases (such as diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, and cholera) that are common causes of early deaths in many third world countries. (locate)
  2. The lack of access to clean water is one of the largest treats in the world, according to UNESCO, 40% of the world's inhabitants have insufficient access to fresh water and more than 2 million people die every year from diseases related to the consumption of contaminated water or drought. (locate)

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