Sometimes, it’s the simplest technologies that have the greatest potential impact on people’s lives. Take the Vestergaard Frandsen Group’s mobile personal filtration system, otherwise known as LifeStraw. LifeStraw makes previously contaminated water drinkable by removing bacteria and viruses. It is a powder-blue plastic tube—much thicker than an ordinary straw—containing filters that make water teeming with typhoid-, cholera- and diarrhea-causing microorganisms drinkable.
LifeStraw with integrated water filter does not use chemicals, does not require batteries, and has no moving parts. It effectively removes 99.9% of waterborne parasites and bacteria. The filters, made up of a halogenated resin, kill nearly 100 percent of bacteria and nearly 99 percent of the viruses that pass through LifeStraw. A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill evaluation tested the device’s performance in water containing Escherichia coli B and Enterococcus faecalis bacteria and the MS2 coliphage virus as well as iodine and silver. The results indicated that LifeStraw filtered out all contaminants to levels where they don’t pose a health risk to someone drinking the water.
But the device does not filter heavy metals such as iron or fluoride nor does it remove parasites like cryptosporidium or giardia, although the Switzerland-based company’s CEO, Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, says there is a version of LifeStraw available to relief groups in Bangladesh and India that can filter arsenic.
At less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) long, the device can filter up to 185 gallons (700 liters) of water, estimated to be about a year’s supply for one person. The device is no longer usable when its filters become too clogged to pass water through, typically after a year of hard use.
The success of the personal filtration system led Vestergaard Frandsen to introduce earlier this month its LifeStraw Family device, an instant microbiological purifier that provides about 2.6 gallons (10 liters) of safe drinking water in an hour and about 4,000 gallons (15,000 liters) over its life span for a family of six. LifeStraw Family is designed to sieve dirt, parasites, bacteria and viruses.
For every 10 straws sold, the International Rotary Foundation donates 1 straw to developing countries. The price of the LifeStraw is $ 20,- in various shops. The product has won various prizes and awards during the last few years such as that of ‘best invention’ and ‘world changing idea’.