How safe is your water purifier?

Experts are worried about the lack of stringent standards for water purifiers.

New Delhi: As more households in metro
cities switch to water purifiers due to scarcity of potable
drinking water, experts are worried about the lack of
stringent standards for the equipment.

"In India, unlike producers of natural mineral water and
packaged drinking water who are required to meet BIS
standards, there is no such mechanism for ensuring safety of
potable water purification devices," says consumer expert
Bejon Mishra.

Most developed countries like the US (Environment
Protection Agency), European countries (European Chemicals
Agency) and Australia have their own regulatory bodies for
monitoring safety of all types of drinking water.

Mishra, who carried out a study on `Safety of Storage
water purifiers`, commissioned by NGO Healthy You Foundation,
notes that a regulatory mechanism is most needed in case of
chemical-based water purifiers.

"Generally chemical-based purifiers cannot remove
dissolved solids from water and thus not recommended in areas
with high hardness or other dissolved solids," he says.

Agrees S Krishnan, President of Healthy You Foundation,
"There is a great risk of formation of disinfection
by-products, even in the most commonly used disinfectant --
Chlorine. It can lead to adverse health effects in the long
run, ranging from metabolic disorders to renal failure and

Mishra rues that the branded players fall short of
adequate disclosure requirements like the type of chemicals
used, life of filters and other components. "There should be a
comprehensive mandatory labelling based on international best

Even the major brands agree to the need for setting
standards and adequate labelling.

"We support the views that there should be comprehensive
testing done to verify the claims made by different water
purifier manufacturers and that appropriate standards need to
be developed by the government and industry bodies for water
purifiers in general," Vikram Surendran, General Manager
(Water), Hindustan Unilever Ltd said.

"Our product uses resin technology that uses bromine. The
US EPA has explicitly allowed the use of HaloPure beads (that
contain bromine) in a water purification system. We did not
mention the US EPA registration in the consumer literature or
packaging because of low Indian consumer awareness of EPA.

However, we plan to do it in future," Aslam Karmali,
CEO Eureka Forbes, said.
Currently in India, the technologies used by various
brands use chemicals like TCCA (Trichlorocyanuric acid), nano
silver, iodine and bromine.

Krishnan said he forwarded a draft copy of the study to
the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and also to the
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
"We hope the Indian government will bring in policy
changes to set standards and monitor portable water
purification devices," he said.

"There is decrease in recharge to groundwater mainly due
to less rainfall which has resulted in more dependence on
groundwater and that is how depreciation in groundwater levels
is happening," the official explained.
This year some areas have received good rainfall and a
rise in water table is observed, though it is premature to say
whether the decline in last year can be made up this year, the
official said.

He said 80-85 pc of area in AP is underlined by hard rock
and not amenable to hold water and hence there is lowering of
the water table as there is run-off of water despite rains.

Giving details on the groundwater scenario in the
state, another official said the entire Rayalseema region has
witnessed long-term depletion of ground water since 1990 and
about eight lakh dug-wells have almost dried up, though they
work only seasonally.

All districts in Rayalseema and some in Telangana besides
Prakasam district and up-line areas in coastal Andhra Pradesh
have been identified as depletion-prone areas.

Demand (usage) for groundwater is increasing year by
year with irrigation sector accounting for 85 pc groundwater
extraction while industries and drinking water adding for the
remaining 15 per cent in the state, the official said adding
there are more than 26 lakh wells across Andhra Pradesh with
addition of 50,000 new wells annually.

"Though, groundwater depletion is continuing, but efforts
to improve management of ground-water resources are underway
through artificial recharge measures for harvesting rainwater.
District water management agencies have taken up water
conservation through watershed basis and construction of check
dams, farm ponds have helped to stabilise further fall in
groundwater table in the past decade by over 50 per cent," the
official added.


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