By Princewill Ekwujuru
How much do you know about the bottled water you drink? Not nearly enough, I guess? But a new data emanating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy group in the USA has labeled some bottled water overseas un-drinkable, Nigeria inclusive.
In another development, a recent statistics by World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that about 4,000 children die daily from water-borne diseases for lack of pure potable water, a result, which averages at 166 children per hour, and three children every other minute.
From the above statistics, it could be deduced that pure drinking water has become a scarce commodity, therefore paving way for the ravaging threat of diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid as primary killers of children and adults in Africa, particularly Nigeria.
For these reasons, the need for potable water subsists. This gives credence to the introduction of water purification systems by some companies.
Before now, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) took it upon itself to rid the country off unclean bottled and sachet water ( pure water) by asking the concerns to register with it, a measure aimed at monitoring the manufacturers’ activities, an effort that paid off.
Today, if you walk or drive along different streets of Nigeria, you find different brands which the manufacturers fail to disclose the source.
Investigation showed that consistent and persistent monitoring of bottled and sachet water manufacturers has waned.
However, Vanguard investigation revealed that bottled water companies try hard to hide information which consumers, monitoring and controlling agencies may find troubling.
In this regard, if the effort by NAFDAC is a little more focused on testing of water sold to Nigerians, unclean bottled water manufacturers may be put under strict check or perhaps be re-assessed or re-certified and many more Nigerian lives will be saved.
James Miller, Managing Director, P&S Systems, a water purification machine distributor, in a statement had likened water to electricity.
He, however, agreed that good/clean water is attainable, “but when it passes through pipes there is the tendency that it could be polluted by anti-rust agents. So for this reason, water must be purified before drinking or used for cooking.
Accordingly, in a survey carried out recently, 25 bottled water manufacturers were probed to determine if companies disclose information on where their water comes from, how or if their water is treated, and whether the results of purity testing are revealed.
It is proper that consumers have the right to know where their water comes from and what’s in it, so they can make informed choices that affect their health and that of their families, but this is not the case with water manufacturers in Nigeria.
Vanguard investigation also looked at how effective (and advanced) water treatment methods are. The investigation was followed up by calling some bottled water companies to find out which ones willingly tell consumers what’s in their bottles.
Water experts in the course of this investigation said tap water is regularly tested and consumers can find their local water information online. This was not necessarily the case with some bottled water manufacturers. Bottled water is a food product and every one of these companies is expected to comply with the federal law with regards to pure and clean water delivery.
According to the investigation, more than half of the bottled water products surveyed failed Vanguard’s transparency test as 95 per cent didn’t say where their water comes from, disclose any information on treatment or purity of their water, tell consumers what’s in their bottles and results of purity testing.
Only three brands earned the marks for disclosing information and using the most advanced treatment methods available – Gossy by UAC, Pure Life Water by Nestle, Swan water and Coscharis water by Cocharis Group, which consumers said the packaging (the oblong bottle) is not transparent enough for consumers to ascertain the purity of the content.
At the other end of the spectrum, the following brands got the worst marks in Vanguard’s data collation, thereby falling below the above mentioned standard, this is either because they didn’t provide consumers with the three basic facts about water on their product labels or their company’s website.
These include: Diamond Aquarius water by Diamond Foods Limited, Aquarite water by Paramount Trading &Industries Nigeria Limited, Rose Table Water, manufactured by Eugene Rose Industries Limited, Valentine water by Enpic Agro Allied Industries Limited and Splash manufactured by Splash Manufacturing Company Limited, to mention a few.
Mr. Rufus Agbaje, a retired Water Treatment Engineer posited that: “Filtered tap water remains the best grade, because when one changes the filter regularly, it is purer than bottled water, plus, it saves money (bottled water can cost up to 1,900 times more than what flows from your tap.”
What should you do when bottled water is your only option? he queried. Continuing he said: “While top choice is filtered tap water, when you do need to choose bottled water, I recommend brands that tell you what’s in the water and that use advanced treatment technologies like reverse osmosis and micro-filtration.”
Further, he said, “advanced treatment technologies remove pollutants that other methods don’t. You should look for bottled water products that tell you where the water is coming from and how pure it is,” he insists.
However, some bottled water overseas with presence in Nigeria failed transparency test carried out by EWG in the USA.
On the low rating of some bottled water marketed in Nigeria, they said, “if some of these bottled water sold in Nigeria could fail transparency test in the USA, then there is problem in Nigeria where due processes and procedures are not followed during manufacturing.
They argued further that in advanced countries where due processes are followed, some bottled water still failed transparency test, how pure are those with presence in Nigeria?