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Photo via PATH, Mountain Safety Research.

A new portable device, unveiled this morning by two Seattle mainstays, promises to help people in developing nations create safe drinking water from unreliable water supplies.

Global health nonprofit PATH and outdoor gear manufacturer Mountain Safety Research collaborated on the MSR SE200 Community Chlorine Maker, a portable device that they say can produce enough chlorine to treat up to 200 liters of safe drinking water in five minutes.

PATH's Glenn Austin at an event in Seattle this morning unveiling the new device.
PATH’s Glenn Austin at an event in Seattle this morning unveiling the new device.

“Safe water is a global problem,” said Glenn Austin, senior technical officer at PATH, at an event in Seattle unveiling the device this morning. He noted that water-borne diarrheal disease is the second largest cause of death of children under five years in developing countries. “It’s been a concern of PATH and many other organizations for a long time,” he said.

The problem with chlorine in developing countries is that it’s very difficult to deliver, he said. Making chlorine now requires a much more complex manufacturing process. “There needs to be a solution in the middle,” he said.

The SE200 uses salt, water and power (as little as a 12-volt battery) to produce a chlorine concentrate that can treat water at wells, kiosks, water trucks, schools and other sources of water in a community. It’s operated by pushing a single button, minimizing the chances for mistakes.

The suggested retail price of the device is $249, with wholesale pricing yet to be announced.

It’s the first product from MSR Global Health, a new division of the outdoor gear maker. MSR Global Health is focusing on technologies

Also involved in the project are the Washington Global Health Alliance, the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, and the Christian humanitarian organization WorldVision, which will be introducing the new device in communities in East and West Africa.

At the event unveiling the new device, Laura McLaughlin, the director of MSR Global Health, said the project dates back to a conversation in the former PATH building in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in 2008.

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Laura McLaughlin, the director of MSR Global Health, speaks at the event this morning.

PATH came up with the idea of developing the device for 50-200 people, significantly reducing the required costs and resources, she said.

“We realized if we wanted to make a sustainable impact in global health, we needed to use our people and our core strengths as a company,” she said.

Brian Gower of World Vision said people in communities that have tested the device have been captivated by the technology. “It’s like a magic trick, to see how this turns into chlorine,” he said.

Photo via PATH, Mountain Safety Research.
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