Taming Wild Water

The New York Times reports on a cheap new device to help people get good drinking water in places where clean water simply isn’t available.

The invention is called Lifestraw, a plastic tube with seven filters: graduated meshes with holes as fine as 6 microns (a human hair is 50 to 100 microns), followed by resin impregnated with iodine and another of activated carbon. It can be worn around the neck and lasts a year.

Lifestraw isn’t perfect, but it filters out at least 99.99 percent of many parasites and bacteria, the demons in most fatal cases of diarrhea.

Vestergaard Frandsen, a Danish company, has invented this device, which costs about $3 per unit, as well as various other items aimed at parasite control in the developing world. The article notes that about 100,000 of the LifeStraws have been distributed so far.

It also notes that the device is ineffective against viruses and the parasite Giardia, which makes its use for US hikers, campers, and hunters not quite as appealing as it might otherwise be. If there were a version that could be used to pre-treat water that could then be hit with one of the Giardia treatments available, it might sell here in the US. A premium price here could help subsidize distribution to developing countries.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.