According to the World Health Organization, more than 3.4 million people die every year as a result of water-related diseases, making it the world’s leading cause of disease and death. In fact, reports have found that poor sanitation and water-related diseases kill more people “than war, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction combined.”
In the developing world, cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and dysentery are all common water borne diseases. In the eye care realm, trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, can also be prevented with access to clean water. While trachoma is not water borne, the simple act of washing one’s face with clean water can help slow the spread of the disease.
While charitable organizations are working hard to provide better access to clean water in the developing world, many people still have to travel long distances just to collect unsanitary water. A new invention called the Solar Bag, however, addresses this issue by purifying water while you walk. Designed by Ryan Lynch and Marcus Triest, two University of Oregon industrial design students (Go Ducks!), the Solar Bag hangs from the shoulders and uses UV radiation to kill most bacteria in the water.
The bag uses a water purification method called SODIS (short for solar disinfecting). Water is placed in the bag encased on one side by a clear plastic made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), commonly found in soda bottles, while the black material on the other side of the bag absorbs UV rays. After six hours, sunlight can naturally disinfect 2.5 gallons of water.
While many communities in developing countries already employ the SODIS method, they are limited to using several soda bottles and the purification process usually cannot start until those collecting the water arrive at their destination. When using the plastic bottle method, it is also recommended that the bottles should not hold more than 3 liters of water. The Solar Bag improves on this method by allowing the purification process to begin right after the bag is filled, with the ability to disinfect 2.5 gallons of water at a time. Additionally, the bag is equipped with a tap on the bottom and a squeeze balloon with a filter for further purification.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, the Solar Bag is only in the prototype stage, but the designers are looking for backers to help produce it commercially. If Lynch and Triest are able to mass produce the Solar Bag, it can potentially be manufactured for under $5 apiece.
There are a lot of people who could benefit from this potentially life-saving product, so hopefully the designers can find some backers soon. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on any progress made.