The LifeStraw

Scientists are always coming up with complicated solutions to small problems. So what if we simplified the water problem by using something so basic the answer has been right under our noses the whole time?

Image of the LifeStraw in action from The Manual online.

The answer I’m talking about is The LifeStraw. Invented and produced in 2005, field tested in 2009, and funded and transported throughout developing countries, is a simple straw that looks like a small tube with a filter inside. It has a log 6 kill factor- in other words, it kills around 99.9999% of bacteria in contaminated water. Although that number is extremely high, solutions for contaminated water must be in the high 90’s range, otherwise just a few bacteria can replicate and once again create unsafe water.

Schematic of the LifeStraw from Pinterest.

The personal LifeStraw is about 20$ plus shipping. It has a lot of pros, but it also has a few cons, like any other product on the market. Chemicals, viruses, and saltwater won’t be removed with this filtering straw. However, you are way better off with one than without one. It wipes out most bacterium that cause diarrheal illnesses as well as parasites. It’s also easy to tote around. You can even wear it as a necklace.

Reviewer Nathalie Rothschild bashed the invention on an online European magazine site. The writer opposed the widespread use of the lifestraw by saying that it is degrading, you can’t bring the water with you, it’s too small, it’s too expensive, it doesn’t solve the water crisis, etc. She went on to insult the company that developed this, as well as charities and hard working engineers who went to great lengths to create and distribute the product. Looking through the comments, I found a popular response that explained in just a short paragraph what water-related technologies are all about.

“Seriously flawed logic here. So because tap water cannot be brought to everyone in Africa RIGHT NOW we should not address the need for clean drinking water with any stop gap solutions? Pretty sure this product has saved lives in the field while this author (Rothschild) would have them die of thirst waiting for their Brita filtered sink to be installed. Man, I haven’t encountered this much stupidity in a while on the Internet. And the Internet is big and stupid.”

Picture source: Mr. Water Geek.

While large water issues globally can’t be solved immediately, it’s worth the lives saved to come up with solid temporary solutions and pray that the government eventually takes over and starts to help people. You can’t save the world- but you can start by saving someone.

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