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让你能直接喝脏水的神奇吸管

更新时间:2018-3-25 10:43:28 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The miraculous straw that lets you drink dirty water
让你能直接喝脏水的神奇吸管

“I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.”

"如果我是你,我是不会喝的。"

I’m sprawled inelegantly on the concrete banks of the Thames, leaning down to scoop some of its green, murky liquid into an empty water bottle. Already, it’s a scene of utter chaos. An unusually large wave has caught me off guard and sloshed water all up my sleeve. Hungry seagulls are swooping down from every direction. A large crowd of ducks has come to investigate – and two formidable geese are making hissing noises.

我非常不雅的趴在泰晤士河的水泥岸上,俯身用一只空瓶子从河里舀起绿色浑浊的水。场景十分混乱。一个不同寻常的大浪让我措手不及,河水溅湿了我的衣袖。饥饿的海鸥从各个方向飞落下来。一大群鸭子前来探察——两只巨大的鹅发出嘶嘶声。

The advice is proffered by a man on a nearby boat, who has been watching me with an expression of amused bewilderment for some time. Alas, he disappears below deck before I can tell him that drinking the water is precisely what I’m going to do.

这个建议来自旁边一条船上的人。他一脸迷惑且愉快的观察了我一会儿。我还没来得及告诉他,我就是要喝这个水,他就消失在了甲板下。

My mad plan begins with a startling fact. According to the World Health Organisation, some 2.1 billion people on our pale blue planet do not have a safe source of water to drink. Consequently, more people die from drinking contaminated water every year than from any form of violence, including war.

这个疯狂的计划来自一个惊人的事实。根据世界卫生组织的数据,在地球这颗蓝色星球上,有大约21亿人没有安全的饮用水源。所以,每年因饮用不洁水源而丧生的人数超过了包括战争在内的任何暴力事件。

As the world’s population expands and climate change sets in, our water woes are becoming increasingly severe. By 2025, half the world’s population will be living where the demand for safe water exceeds its supply.

随着全球人口增长和气候变化,水资源问题正在变的日益严重。到2025年,全球一半的人口将生活在安全水资源供不应求的地方。

Enter a new generation of bold solutions, from water purifiers that run on faeces to machines that work by filtering out particles using fizzy water. One of these is the LifeStraw, which cleans water by passing it through a bunch of long, hollow fibres encased in a plastic tube.

我们会迎来新一代大胆的解决方案,包括以粪便为原料的净水器,还有用气泡水过滤颗粒物的机器。其中之一就是吸管LifeStraw,水流经塑料管道中的一捆长长的空心纤维以完成净化。

The original version works like a normal drinking straw; you simply plunge one end into some water, then suck through the other. Anything larger than two microns, or a hundredth of the thickness of a human hair, will be trapped inside before it makes it to your mouth. This includes 99.9% of parasites and 99.9999% of bacteria, such as those that cause cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever. When sipped through a LifeStraw, even the muddiest water comes out as clear as a mountain spring.

LifeStraw最初版本的工作原理就像普通的吸管一样。就是把一头插到水中,从另一头吸水。任何超过两微米或头发直径百分之一的东西都会堵在吸管里,无法进入你的嘴巴。这就过滤掉了99.9%的寄生虫和99.9999%的细菌,比如那些会导致霍乱,痢疾和伤寒的细菌。当你用LifeStraw吸水时,就算是最浑浊的水也会变的像山泉水一样清澈。

It all started back in 1996, when a Danish entrepreneur, Mikkel Frandsen, transformed his grandfather’s uniform manufacturing business to focus on improving the lives of people in Africa instead. The earliest version of the LifeStraw was created to help eradicate guinea worm, one of the most gruesome diseases to survive into the 21st Century.

这一切是从1996年开始的。当时的一位名叫米克尔·弗兰德森(Mikkel Frandsen)的丹麦企业家把他祖父的制服制造公司转型成专注于改善非洲人生活的公司。LifeStraw最初的版本就是为了消灭麦地那龙线虫,它是到21世纪仍然残存的最可怕的疾病之一。

It’s caused by a Russian doll of nasty things – dirty water, infected with fleas, infected with worm larvae. If you’re unlucky enough to drink any, the worms will mature and breed within your body over several months, eventually popping up at the surface of the skin where they try to wriggle through. The end result is often infections and, occasionally, amputated limbs. It’s excruciatingly painful and there’s no vaccine or drug that can treat it.

病因就像俄罗斯套娃一样重重叠叠——被跳蚤、幼虫污染的水源。如果你不幸喝到了这种水,在接下来的几个月里,蠕虫会在你的体内成熟、繁殖,最后会从皮肤表面钻出来。通常的结果就是出现感染,有时还会截肢。患者会非常痛苦,没有疫苗或药物能够治疗这种病。

To begin with, the straw contained a simple streel mesh that could remove the relatively large fleas. Over the past two decades, Frandsen’s company has supplied the eradication effort with more than 37 million of them, which has helped to reduce the number of guinea worm cases from 3.5 million in 1986 to just 25 last year. “This will be the second disease ever eradicated,” says DeWitte.

起初,吸管安装了一片简单的金属网,用来过滤相对较大的跳蚤。在过去的二十年里,弗兰德森的公司为了消灭这种疾病供应了超过3700万件产品。在它的帮助下,麦地那龙线虫的病例从1986年的350万例减少到去年的25例。"这是它消灭的第二种疾病,"LifeStraw的营销主管马特·德维特(Matt DeWitte)说。

Today the technology has evolved to the point where a single straw can filter all the bacteria, parasites, and fleas from 4,000 litres of water, enough to keep its owner safe for several years. Meanwhile scaled-up, gravity-powered versions have been used in the aftermath of disasters in Haiti, Ecuador, Pakistan and Thailand, and the company that makes them is over half way to providing clean drinking water to a million students in Kenya.

如今,这一技术已经进步到仅凭一根吸管就可以过滤掉4000升水中的所有细菌、寄生虫和跳蚤,可确保该产品的所有者在数年内安全无虞。与此同时,更大规模的、以重力为动力的版本在海地、厄瓜多尔、巴基斯坦和泰国的灾后得到使用。该公司在为肯尼亚的一百万学生提供清洁饮用水的工作也已进行过半。

To see this incredible technology in action, I tested the original LifeStraw on the most disgusting liquid I could find in London: water from the Thames. But exactly how risky is this? And why should we care?

为了实际体验一下这个难以置信的技术,我来到了我能找到的伦敦最让人恶心的水源——泰晤士河——测试LifeStraw的原始版。但是风险到底有多大?还有,为什么我们要在意这一点?

“There’s a very long list of pathogens in the Thames,” says Andrew Singer, a senior scientific officer at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. When I tell him about the LifeStraw, he laughs heartily. “Well your experiment is certainly going to test it for sure.”

"泰晤士河里的病原体非常多,"英国自然环境研究理事会生态学和水文学中心(NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)资深科学家安德鲁·辛格(Andrew Singer)说。当我告诉他LifeStraw的事时,他开心的笑了:"你的实验肯定能测试出它的效果。"

In fact, a large proportion of what comes out of Londoners – around 15 million of us – goes into the Thames. “The amount of water in there is quite low compared to the number of people, which means that we have less water to dilute what we put into it. Effectively our rivers are between 10% and 100% sewage at times,” says Singer. Generally this is treated sewage, though occasionally it’s raw.

事实上,1500万伦敦人排出的污水很大一部分都进入了泰晤士河。"与人口相比,这条河的水量并不大,这就意味着对污水的稀释能力不足。"在不同的时候,下水道污水占伦敦河流的比例在10%到100%之间。通常来说,这些下水道污水是经过处理的,不过也有未经处理的情况。

And though many of us assume that “treated” sewage is relatively clean, the reality is very different. “Pathogens get reduced in number, but that’s about all we can reliably say,” says Singer. The main dangers in most rivers are the parasites Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia, which cause diarrhoea and have spores so tiny and difficult to kill, they sometimes make it into tap water.

尽管很多人会认为"经过处理的"下水道污水是比较干净的,事实却并非如此。"病原体数量会减少,但是除此之外我们什么都不能保证,"辛格说。大多数河流中最危险的东西是两种寄生虫——隐孢子虫和梨形鞭毛虫。它们会导致腹泻,并且孢子非常小,很难杀死。它们有时候会进入自来水。

Instead, the primary aim of sewage treatment is to reduce the amount of harmful microorganisms and organic matter that it contains. The latter is crucial, because as debris decays, it tends to suck the oxygen out of water and can have a devastating impact on aquatic wildlife.

相反,下水道处理的主要目标是减少有害微生物和有机物的数量。后者是关键,因为随着碎屑的腐烂,它会吸收水中的氧气,有可能对水体中的野生动物造成毁灭性影响。

Sewage also brings with it a hefty dose of pharmaceuticals. One 2013 study of worldwide wastewater treatment plants found that just half of 42 substances present in sewage, such as caffeine and antibiotics, were removed by the treatment process.

污水还携带高剂量的药品。2013年对全球污水处理厂的一项研究发现处理工作只能清除42种物质中的一半,比如咖啡因和抗生素。

Then there’s all the stuff that gets dragged into rivers when it rains. This includes pesticides, herbicides, animal waste, which includes small amounts of toxic metals such as cadmium – “They’re fed to farm animals as “nutritional supplements”, which is really just growth promotion,” says Singer – and anything that the city’s many ducks, seagulls and sewer rats expel. “It gets diluted, but not to the point where you can’t find it. It’s all there.”

还有下雨时流入河中的所有东西,包括杀虫剂、除草剂、动物粪便,以及少量有毒金属,比如镉——"它们被当作'营养补充品'喂给饲养的动物,目的是促进生长,"辛格说。还有伦敦很多鸭子、海鸥和老鼠排出的东西。"它会被稀释,但是不会到你找不到的地步。所有东西都在那里。"

Finally, there’s plastic. A 2016 study found some 35,000 plastic particles in samples taken from the Thames, mostly from broken down food and drinks containers.

最后,还有塑料。2016年的一项研究发现,泰晤士河的样品中有大约35,000个塑料颗粒,大多数来自食品和饮料容器。

This pollution has a number of unpleasant side-effects, including transgendered and dopey fish that make easy prey, after swimming around in water contaminated with the contraceptive pill, plastics – which mimic the chemistry of oestrogen – and calming antidepressants. It also means that interacting with the river is particularly risky. For example, swimming events in the Thames are regularly followed by mass illness.

这种污染有很多让人不悦的副作用。跨性别和愚蠢的鱼在被避孕药、塑料——类似于雌激素的化学原理——和抗抑郁药污染的水体中游荡时,会把塑料当成轻易可得的猎物。这也意味着与河流打交道的风险特别大。比如,在泰晤士河里举办游泳活动以后,常常会出现集体疾病。

“As far as industrialised countries go, I’d say the Thames is pretty typical. I can’t truly imagine many rivers being worse than the rivers in those flowing in many parts of India,” says Singer.

"就工业化国家而言,泰晤士河相当典型。我无法想象会有很多河流竟然比印度很多地区的河流还要糟糕,"辛格说。

Luckily for me, the LifeStraw will remove any bacteria and parasites that might be lurking, as well as plastic and a fair amount of mud. All that will be left is anything dissolved or particularly small, such as metals, viruses, pesticides and herbicides. Here Singer isn’t exactly reassuring – “Pretty much every virus that has ever existed on Earth is running through the Thames,” he says – but I’m banking on these only being present in very small amounts. I’m not exactly going to make this a habit.

我很幸运,LifeStraw能消除其中可能潜藏的任何细菌和寄生虫,还有塑料和相当多的泥土。剩下的东西只有可溶解的物质和非常微小的东西,比如金属、病毒、杀虫剂和除草剂。在这个问题上,辛格说的话让人不太放心——"地球上存在的大部分细菌都会经过泰晤士河,"他说——但是我能依靠的只是它的数量很少。我不会把这件事变成习惯。

Even if you’re not reckless enough to drink directly from a river, the pollution in our rivers might not be as distant we’d like to think. Today 83% of tap water around the globe contains plastic fibres, while dissolved oestrogen is thought to be contributing to rapidly declining sperm counts in men.

即便你不会鲁莽到直接饮用河水,但河流污染可能并不像你愿望中的那么遥远。如今,全球83%的自来水含有塑料纤维,而溶解在水中的雌激素被认为是男性精子数量快速下降的原因。

“The issues with safe water don’t stop at microbiological,” says LifeStraw’s Managing Director Alison Hill. “And while we think of unsafe water as being predominantly limited to the developing world, I think what we’ve seen in the last five years, in places like Flint, Michigan, is that the issue of safe water is an American concern as well.”

"水资源安全的问题并不止于微生物层面,"LifeStraw的董事总经理艾利森·希尔(Alison Hill)说,"虽然我们觉得水资源不安全主要是发展中国家的问题,但是在过去的五年中,像密歇根州弗林特(Flint)这些地方让我们看到这也同样是美国的问题。"

The recent Flint water crisis, in which over 100,000 people were exposed to dangerously high levels of lead, has put the spotlight on these chemical sources of contamination. A report filed last year found that more than 63 million Americans were exposed to unsafe drinking water over the last decade, which may have contained anything from industrial pollutants to illegal quantities of chemical fertilisers.

最近在美国密歇根州弗林特的水危机中,10万人处于铅含量达到危险水平的用水环境中。这让水污染的化学来源受到瞩目。去年的一份报告发现,在过去十年中,6300万以上的美国人暴露于不安全的饮用水环境中。水中含有工业污染物、超标化肥等等。

“There are two main factors,” says Matt DeWitte, Lifestraw’s head of marketing. “One is that the global population is increasingly urbanised, and that means we have to move from filtering biological contaminants only, to also being concerned about heavy metals, pesticides and pharmaceuticals etc. The other overall trend that you see is in countries like the US specifically is the breakdown of infrastructure and that has created an immediate need to respond to things like lead removal.”

"存在两大来源,"德维特说,"第一是全球污染日益城市化。这就意味着我们不仅要过滤生物污染物,还要担忧重金属、杀虫剂和药品等。另一个整体趋势是,在美国这样的国家出现的基础设施老化现象,它导致人们必须立刻采取除铅等行动。"

Eventually I managed to collect enough water from the Thames without falling in, or being attacked by ducks. To avoid any more looks from strangers, I decided to drink it from the safety of my flat.

最后,我从泰晤士河取到了足够的水,既没有落水,也没有被鸭子攻击。为了避免再有陌生人侧目,我决定回到公寓里再喝。

Operating the straw is easy – you simply remove the protective caps from either end, dip it into an unpalatable drink of your choice, and use it like a regular straw.

吸管的操作很简单——只需要把一头的保护盖取下,把它放入你挑选的难喝的饮料中,然后像正常的吸管一样使用它。

It took a few seconds, but soon a steady stream of freshly filtered river water was flowing through. The verdict? It was icy cold and actually surprisingly refreshing. I thought I could detect notes of damp vegetation, but this was probably my imagination.

花了几秒钟,很快的一股刚刚经过过滤的河水就稳稳地被吸入我的口中。结论如何?它非常冰冷,并且清爽到让我感到惊讶。我觉得我喝到了潮湿植被的味道,但是那大概只是我的想象。

And no, I didn’t get sick.

而且,我没有生病。

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