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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The straw that filters dirty water to make it safe for drinking

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LifeStraw uses technology similar to kidney dialysis to filter contaminated water and make it safe for consumption, but is it accessible in the right areas?

According to World Vision, at least 785 million across the world lack access to clean water. This includes access to drinking water. The water epidemic is raging faster than ever before.

To address this issue, health company Vestergaard has developed the LifeStraw — a straw designed to save lives by making water safe to drink. LifeStraw filters the dangerous chemicals present in dirty water and makes it drinkable. So, in theory, you can drink water from lakes, ponds and rivers, with the contaminants being filtered by the straw.

Vestergaard says it is “on a mission to redefine the safe drinking water space through technology, innovation, product quality, and design”. LifeStraw is an apt symbolisation of this mission statement.

It is an ultralight straw that filters contaminated water using a hollow fibre membrane. The product uses microfiltration and ultrafiltration membranes as well as carbon filters, which are around the size of 0.2-micron pore sizes, to reduce chemicals and the bad taste of the water.

 

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The hollow fibre membrane technology of the straw is similar to the one used for kidney dialysis. When dirty water enters the straw, all the harmful chemicals stay behind as the pores are too small for them.

LifeStraw has been tested by the US Environmental Protection Agency and NSF international. The company’s report states that the straw removes 99.99% of bacteria, parasites and microplastics from the water. In addition, it also reduces chlorine, herbicides, pesticides, odours and turbidity from the water.

Bacterias such as E coli, giardia, and cryptosporidium are amongst the harmful bacterias and parasites that get filtered by the straw.

LifeStraw is advertised for personal use, weighs just 46g and is around 22.9 cm x 2.5 cm. So, it is ideal for outdoor and hiking lovers. Moreover, the straw’s body filters last up to 4,000 litres of water and its activated carbon filter at the top lasts up to 100 litres.

The activated carbon filter works to make the water taste and smell good by removing the chlorine and other foul odours. The entire water filtering process takes around 5 to 6 minutes and has a capacity of around 1.6 litres.

While it is available for commercial use, there are different types of LifeStraw products, designed to tackle specific water types and issues. These include LifeStraw Go, LifeStraw Universal, LifeStraw Home, LifeStraw Mission, LifeStraw Community, and more. The products differ in size, weight, capacity, and efficiency to filter chlorine.

 

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As a fantastic product designed to help eradicate the global water pandemic and save millions of lives, does it reach the countries that have a serious water pandemic?

The company works with several non-governmental organisations, across the world to contribute towards its responsibilities for the planet and its people. One such effort is its partnership with the Carter Center for Guinea worm eradication, in which it has provided over 33 million Guinea worm filters to the NGO.

But, purchasing a LifeStraw product for a family living in small towns or villages in developing nations with severe water scarcity issues seems close to impossible. Factors such as product costs, shipping, logistics, and internet availability play a critical role in stopping people in these areas from accessing this potentially life-saving product.

LifeStraw is incredibly helpful for an American or even a European outdoor enthusiast with access to the internet, but it isn’t a viable option for those actively facing the water epidemic’s consequences across the globe.

In addition to the inaccessibility factor, the size of the LifeStraw isn’t a realistic solution for large families living far away from their only water source, for whom $19.95 is a huge amount. Especially since the straw only has a capacity for 1.6 litres.

Pairing up with more NGOs and countries with large-scale water crises to make the product accessible to the populations that need it most is an important step forward for LifeStraw as part of its global initiative to provide safe drinking water to all.