900 million people in the world are without access to safe drinking water. This a serious problem which the world is trying to address in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A product developed by the Swiss-based company Vestergaard Frandsen is making great progress towards water sanitation. The product is called LifeStraw. It is a 25 cm straw that purifies water by simply sucking on the product, like a straw. LifeStraw uses no chemicals when it purifies water.

LifeStraw comes in two different sizes; the LifeStraw can provide 1000 liters of safe drinking water, and LifeStraw Family can provide 18,000 liters of drinking water. The LifeStraw removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of parasites. However, the LifeStraw does not filter out heavy minerals or desalinate water.

LifeStraw could provide safe drinking water to many impoverished people who would otherwise suffer from the many diseases unsanitary drinking water causes. The most prevalent illness caused by unsanitary drinking water is diarrhea. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – are due to diarrhea. Diarrhea kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

LifeStraw uses the point-of-use (POU) approach to bring about effective, and affordable drinking water. The philosophy of POU is that purification of drinking water at the point of consumption is much more cost-effective and disease preventative. By purifying water in the household it reduces the risk of water being contaminated at other points during the purification process. POU empowers people to control the quality of their own drinking water. In the developed world, household water-quality interventions can reduce diarrhea morbidity by more than 40%.

The LifeStraw currently costs $20 in the US, but it is subsidized and made cheaper for those in need. LifeStraw was distributed to those in need during the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2010 Pakistan floods, and the 2011 Thailand floods. LifeStraw won the “Best Invention of 2005 Award” by Time Magazine and the 2008 Saatchi and Saatchi Award for “World Changing Ideas.”

LifeStraw is providing hundreds of thousands with affordable drinking water and is making a tremendous dent in the MDG to provide safe drinking water to all.

Catherine Ulrich

Sources: PRINKA, The Daily Star
Photo: Cool Material