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Note: LifeStraw has been significantly improved since this article was written. LifeStraw filters down to 0.2 microns using mechanical means – no chemicals are used to filter and it is BPA-free. To find out more, go to the most recent article about LifeStraw or to our wiki.
A $5 donation through a Rotary Club will purchase a LifeStraw for a person in a developing nation who has limited or no access to clean water.
The Lifestraw is a simple looking device, merely a plastic tube at first glance, but inside is a powerful water filter, capable of killing disease-causing bacteria and viruses, and filtering particles down to the size of 15 microns. Distributing the Lifestraw to people without access to clean water can make the difference between life and death to them, and the cost to us is only about $5.
Lifestraw is the invention of Vestergaard-Frandsen, a Swiss firm that produces textiles for insect and disease control, and has been distributed through donations to people in the developing world. The device filters out 99.99% of bacteria, and contains an iodine element to kill viruses and parasites.
Medgadget has this description of the filtration process:
What first meets the water when sucked up is a pre-filter of PE filter textile with a mesh opening of 100 micron, shortly followed by a second textile filter in polyester with a mesh opening of 15 micron. In this way all big articles are filtered out, even clusters of bacteria are removed. Then the water is led into a chamber of iodine impregnated beads, where bacteria, viruses and parasites are killed. The second chamber is a void space, where the iodine being washed off the beads can maintain their killing effect. The last chamber consists of granulated active carbon, which role is to take the main part of the bad smell of iodine, and to take the parasites that have not been taken by the pre-filter or killed by the iodine. The biggest parasites will be taken by the pre-filter, the weakest will be killed by the iodine, and the medium range parasites will be picked up by the active carbon.
The Lifestraw Family version can handle a much larger volume of water, and as you can see in this video, it can turn water contaminated with some of the nastiest stuff you can imagine into potable water.
The personal Lifestraw comes with a string to keep the device handy around the user’s neck, and can filter about 700 liters (185 gallons) of water, which works out to about a year’s worth of drinking water. It’s important that water can be filtered at the point of use, so a personal filter is a key element in safeguarding people, and if they always have one with them, the risk of drinking contaminated water is greatly reduced.
For those of us in the western world, with filtered and treated tap water freely available, the fact that a significant percentage of the population does not have access to potable water is not readily apparent. We have a hard time imagining what that would be like. However, for those who live in areas where everyday is a struggle to get clean water, and diarrhea and other waterborne illnesses are a common occurrence, this simple little device, the Lifestraw, really could be a lifesaver.
If you are so moved, please make a donation to Lifestraw and help out a fellow human today.