Drinking water related deaths following emergency situations might be reduced thanks to the development of a new lightweight contaminated water disinfecting 'pen'.
According to American developer MIOX Corporation, the device - which at 178mm long and weighing only 85g resembles a ballpoint pen - can treat up to 300 litres of contaminated drinking water in a matter of minutes using only salt and a small battery.
Microbiologist Mark Sobesy of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, who has been testing the device for MIOX, explains that the technology was originally developed a decade ago to treat cholera in remote areas of Latin America.
He says: 'It is now being developed for other applications, including the military, backpackers and campers, and also in emergency disaster situations where water has been contaminated and there are no other means to disinfect the water.'
The device works by pouring a small amount of raw water into the top of the 'pen', which dissolves a salt tablet producing brine. The 'pen top' is then twisted, powering a small electrolytic cell that sends electricity through the solution.
This results in a 'mixed oxidants' solution, that MIOX claims to be a more effective disinfectant than chlorine, but with fewer drawbacks - for instance, the water's taste and odour remain unaffected.
Sobsey carried out a series of tests for MIOX and found that the mixed oxidants killed over 99% of bacteria and viruses in 10 minutes.
The disinfectant also proved effective against parasite Cryptosporidium Parvum, Giardia and E Coli.
However, scientists are unlikely to unleash the device onto the market until they have investigated the pen's success on a wider variety of water pollutants - for instance, increased particular matter and varying acidity.