Bottled water: The illusion of pure

Report finds 27 brands unsafe for drinking due to contamination.

Our Correspondent July 19, 2013
Report finds 27 brands unsafe for drinking due to contamination. PHOTO: FILE


Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) has found 27 brands of bottled water being sold in Pakistan to be unsafe for drinking due to contamination, said a press release issued by the council.

According to PCRWR’s quarterly monitoring report for April-June 2013, 27 brands — Elixir, Nature Aqua, Aqua Safe, Best Nation, Al Sana, Oxigyzer, Lock, Pan Pura, Kalash Pure Water, Premier Pure Water, Safi Mineral Water, NN Welfare, Aqua Royal, Water Empire, Water Plus, Berg, Lite Wave, Oslo, Zindagi, Mathar, Best Water, Sea Breeze, Cool, Kallan Water, Aqua National, Active and Sunlay — had unsafe levels of chemical and microbiological contamination.

For its analysis, PCRWR tested 86 samples of mineral, bottled water brands against water quality standards set by the Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority (PSQCA).

Twelve of the 27 brands, namely Pan Pura, Kalash Water, Premier Pure Water, Cool, Kallan Water, Aqua National, Oxigyzer, Aqua Safe, Natur Aqua, Lock, Best Nation and Active, had levels of Arsenic ranging from 12 to 44 parts per billion (ppb), which are higher than the 10ppb prescribed by the PSQCA water quality standard for Arsenic.

Excessive levels of Arsenic can cause skin diseases, diabetes, kidney diseases, hypertension, heart diseases, birth defects and multiple types of cancers, according to PCRWR.

Lubna Bukhari, a director at PCRWR, said there should technically be zero microbiological contamination in bottled water samples, but some of the samples that were tested showed a high level of such contamination.

Of the 27 brands, 10 — Elixir, Safi Mineral Water, Sunlay, Aqua Royal, Water Empire, Berg, Lite Wave, Water Plus, Mathar and Sea Breeze — were found to have microbiological contamination which may cause cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis and typhoid. The remaining five brands showed higher levels of sodium, potassium or fluoride than permitted by the PSQCA standards.

The 86 bottled water samples were collected from Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Multan, Bahawalpur, Tandojam, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.

PCRWR has been designated by the Ministry of Science and Technology to monitor the quality of bottled water.

Bukhari said the report is sent to the PSQCA, which has the authority to ban these unsafe bottled water companies.

She said the report is also circulated to other public health, environmental and law enforcement agencies so they can take legal action against these companies, which are supplying contaminated water to the public and putting their health at risk.

Pakistan has witnessed a mushroom growth in the bottled water industry over the past few years. The poor quality of tap water is considered to be the main driver of demand for bottled water by people who can afford to buy it.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.