Friday, May 15, 2009

The LifeStraw

Image courtesy Treehugger

The results of the fifth Saatchi & Saatchi Award for World Changing Ideas has proclaimed a winner. (drum roll, please!) The winner is a small tube worn around the neck and used like a regular straw. What is so special about this straw, aptly named LifeStraw, is that it filters 99.9999% of bacteria and 98.7% of viruses from unclean water using a halogen-based resin as a filter.

The inventor of LifeStraw, Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, received the award directly from Her Royal Highness Princess Badiya of Jordan. Along with this prestigious honor comes a $50,000 cash prize plus and equal sum in consultancy work. When being handed his award, Frandsen urged the audience to make the sub-Saharan clean-water crisis as prominent as AIDS relief or global warming.

Saatchi's worldwide creative director Bob Isherwood praised the company for its innovative thinking. "I think it's an amazing idea, a world-changing idea," he said. "You have such a huge proportion of the world's population that can't drink safe water; 6,000 children a day dying from polluted water. To have a straw that you wear around your neck that you can put in contaminated water and turn it immediately into totally safe water is incredible; it is world-changing."

The LifeStraw being demonstrated in the above picture is a prototype. The LifeStraw that won the award is approximately the same size and shape as a toilet roll centre – just a little longer. Inside the tube, a series of mechanical screens, carbon particles, and resin beads filter and kill most pathogenic bacteria and microorganisms common in water systems throughout the world.

PuroTech Disinfecting Resin, a patented resin, the filters are rated for 700 liters of water. This is approximately the water consumption for one person for a one-year period. All that is required to use them is the ability to use a straw. Positive test results have been achieved on tap, turbid and saline water against common waterborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus, Diphtheria, Cholera, Diarrhoea and Staphylococcu.

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.

A brief technical rundown of the straw is available at MedGadget, the internet journal of emerging medical technologies.

Image via AquaSafeStraw

The above diagram shows the inside of the AquaSafe Straw. The AquaSafe is basically a reworked LifeStraw. Its filtration capacity is slightly less at 132 gallons of water per straw.

This straw is being marketed for affluent travelers, backpackers, and others who may find themselves in a place without safe drinking water. The AquaStraw sells for approximately $35.00.

The LifeStraw was originally going to sell for approximately $2.00 per straw (very affordable); but, the price is being looked at again. It appears that the LifeStraw is available to third-world countries by donation; but, is not available to the public for individual purchase. Hopefully, that will change. I know two little girls - one in Bolivia and one in South Africa - that could use a LifeStraw tucked into their yearly packages.


kathi said...

What a great idea! Kudos to the inventor.

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