According to information from the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.8 million people die yearly from diarrheal illnesses. More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water. A newly developed compact water purification sytsem is now able to purify at least 18,000 liters of water reliably: it provides the inhabitants of the developing countries with considerable support and it can be quickly and easily distributed during natural disasters.
Developed by Vestergaard Frandsen and BASF, the portable system is able to purify dirty water without the need for batteries, electricity, replacement parts, chemicals, or complex technology. Lifestraw® Family uses a polyethersulfone (PESU) developed by BASF. The primary element is an approximately 30 cm long plastic housing, which contains filter membranes made by Ultrason E. They provide ultrafiltration (UF membranes) and remove viruses as well as bacteria from dirty surface water, which may have come from rivers, lakes, rainwater collection barrels, or puddles.
Water purified by the unit has been tested by the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) and declared potable. Vestergaard Frandsen worked in conjunction with non-governmental agencies to ship their products rapidly in response to Myanmar's cyclone Nargis in May 2008 and the Chinese earthquake in August 2008.