Saving Lives, One Sip at a Time

By Amanda C. Lee

While searching for Christmas presents last week, I came upon the LifeStraw. I had heard of it before, but never looked into how it worked or what it does for the community. I decided that it was time for me to do so this week.

LifeStraw Use © Edyta Materka, CC BY 2.0

Why Is This Needed?

Not only can the LifeStraw be brought fishing, camping, and on other casual trips, but they have also been used to combat the aftermath of natural disasters, and to help those with limited resources in third world countries. Drinking contaminated water can lead to a variety of diseases, including but not limited to cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis A. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 842 000 people die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking-water. This statistic is even more devastating, considering that many of these deaths could be prevented by purifying their drinking water.

Lifestraw – Safe Drinking Water © Badri Seshadri, CC BY 2.0

How Does it Work?

Though seemingly complicated, if you know how to use a straw, then you’re set! You simply stick one end into the water, open the mouthpiece on the other end, and start drinking. Although it may take a few hard sips to get the water flowing, after you’ve got it going, you’ll have clean drinking water! When you’re done drinking, all you do is blow out the excess liquid and then close the caps. 

The LifeStraw effectively eliminates 99.9999% of all waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne parasites. Durable plastic, and a hollow fiber membrane makes up the outer shell. There are microscopic pores in the membrane that trap the contaminants in the water. Majority of bacteria and parasites are too big to make it through the pores, so only the purified water is able to pass through. If you are looking for more accurate purifying systems, they have a series of other products listed on their website. These include everything from water bottles to community filtration devices that specialize in virus purification. 

How Has It Been Used?

Since its founding, the LifeStraw has given those in need throughout the world access to clean water. Researchers studied the effects of the LifeStraw in El-Masraf camp within Gezira State, Sudan in 2009. The researchers surveyed the diarrheal rates of 647 participants for four months before and four months after using the LifeStraws. The study found that the rate dropped 1.5% after the usage of the LifeStraw. Although 1.5% doesn’t seem like that much, those individual’s access to clean water is a crucial step towards developing more effective strategies in the future. The LifeStraw has also been distributed to victims of natural disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2011 Thailand floods.

Although some have critiqued the LifeStraw for being too expensive for the target audience, I still believe that it is a great step forwards towards a healthier society. I might even be getting one for my family this Christmas!

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