Sunday, October 25, 2009


Years: 2005-present

Developer: Vestergaard Frandsen

Cost: less than $4

Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises, p.208

The European-based international organization Vestergaard Frandsen develops emergency response and disease control products. With the invention of LifeStraw, Vestergaard Frandsen aims to reduce the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by half. Currently, more than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and nearly 6,000 people, mostly children, die from waterborne diseases every day.

LifeStraw is a drinking straw that contains filters capable of killing bacteria, such as E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella and microorganisms that cause diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, and cholera. With each sip of water, two textile filters catch large materials and clusters of bacteria; next, a chamber of iodine-filled beads kills smaller bacteria, viruses, and parasites; finally, a chamber containing granulated active carbon catches any remaining parasites and rids the water of the iodine smell. It removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 98% of waterborne bacteria. One LifeStraw can filter about 185 gallons (or 700 liters) of water, which is about one year’s worth of water for one person. Currently, the average distance that women in Africa and Asia walk to collect water is 6 km. LifeStraw is only 31 cm long and includes a string to hang around one’s neck, so it’s easy to carry around. Thus, LifeStraw will make safe drinking water much more accessible.

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