Courtland Walker

LifeStraw Catching On

lifestrawWith more than a few mentions on NextBillion during its development, it was nice to see LifeStraw covered in today’s New York Times.

The LifeStraw sells for $3, is approximately the size of a paper towel tube (i.e. 25cm long by 29mm in diameter), and filters out 99.99% of bacteria, the main cause of water-borne diseases such as Typhoid, Cholera, Dysentery and Diarrhoea that kill 6,000 people a day.Each straw is estimated to last one year, when filtering an average of two liters of water per day, though frequent salt water exposure can reduce its lifespan by half. Vestergaard-Frandsen, the Danish manufacturer, also advises against sharing straws.

The lifespan issue is the only apparent drawback to this otherwise stellar product (which was named an Innovation of the Year for 2005 by Time Magazine and was featured in Wired’s NextFest 2006). I can’t help but imagine a family of five drinking contaminated river water through an expired LifeStraw, in lieu of precautionary measures like boiling the water. I would hope there is a clear, universally understandable, indicator on the straw when it has passed its expiration date.

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World Resources Institute