8/31/2011 3:02:02 PM
Hospitals & Health Networks: Itty-Bitty Medicine
Hospitals & Health Networks
By David Ollier Weber
Microscopic designs can address colossal problems.
At home in England, watching television images of the aftermath of the Indonesian tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, engineer Michael Pritchard was appalled by the human misery — dehydration, diarrhea, fungal and parasitic infestations, cholera — that ensues when disaster survivors are reduced to drinking dirty water.
He was astonished that even in a First World country it took five days to get safe drinking water to the 14,000 refugees sheltered in New Orleans' Superdome — ironically stranded in a sea of river water, albeit too contaminated to be potable. In the best of times, as many as 30 million Americans annually develop a gastrointestinal illness from consuming polluted water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 1,000 of them, many infants, perish as a result.
Pritchard was convinced that technology could be brought to bear to alleviate this age-old, seemingly intractable problem. He went to work in his garage and his kitchen ("much to the dismay of my wife," he quips). Several failed prototypes later, he emerged with an unprepossessing cylindrical metal canteen capable of turning the foulest water fresh — completely clear, pleasant to tongue and nose, healthy to drink no matter what may have been floating in it moments before, from raw sewage or animal poop to the tiniest bacterium or deadly virus. Full article