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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) has declared another nine water brands unsafe for human consumption.

In its monitoring report for the July to September 2018 quarter, the PCRWR collected samples of 118 mineral and bottled water branches from cities such as Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Peshawar, Multan, Lahore, Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan, Tandojam, Quetta and Karachi.

The comparison of their findings with the permissible limits of the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) revealed that nine brands – Pure Water, Plus Piyaas, 3 Star, Douro, Real Plus, Pure It, Elayn Plus, Crystal Maya and Aqua Saad – were unsafe due to chemical and microbiological contamination.

Of these, Plus Piyaas had comparatively high levels of arsenic, 15 parts per billion (ppb) compared to the PSQCA bottled water standard of 10ppb.

The PCRWR said that excessive levels of arsenic can cause various skin diseases, diabetes, kidney diseases, hypertension, heart diseases, birth defects, black foot disease and multiple types of cancer.

Elayn Plus, Crystal Maya and Aqua Saad were unsafe due to microbiological contamination, which can cause cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid and so on.

Four brands – Pure Water, 3 Star, Douro and Real Plus – were unsafe due to higher sodium levels ranging from 60 to 115 parts per million (ppm), and Pure It was unsafe due to higher levels of fluoride – 1.8ppm.

The PSQCA’s bottled water quality standard for sodium is 50ppm and for fluoride it is 0.7ppm.

In its report, the PCRWR cautioned that poor quality drinking water has forced a large cross-section of citizens to buy bottled water.

As a consequence of this expanding market, the bottled water industry has mushroomed in the country during the last few years.

However, many mineral and bottled water companies have been found selling contaminated water.

The PCRWR was tasked with quarterly monitoring of bottled and mineral water brands and publicising the results by the Ministry of Science and Technology, in order to monitor and improve the quality of bottled water.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018