Pure drinking water is a luxury in India today. Most water sources are contaminated; water borne diseases such as diarrohea, dysentery, typhoid, jaundice and gastroenteritis are legion. Even the municipal water supply is not free of contaminants like pesticides, and heavy metals. People either boil water to drink it or install purifiers. Of late, they have also turned to bottled water available in the open market: this water is perceived as safe. Given human dependence on water, we cannot afford to be careless about the kind and quality of water, that we drink.
Various top brands like Bisleri, Kinley make claims about the purity of their mineral water and advertise their water as the safest. But the source of water for different bottlers is bore-well (groundwater). Given the quality of water in and around Delhi is not very good, could bottled water, too, be contaminated? Could bottled water contain pesticides, since it is known that Delhi’s groundwater does?
Since exposure to pesticides through drinking water has potential health effects, a study was undertaken to assess the quality of bottled mineral water in terms of pesticide levels. Do various brands conform to standards specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (PFA)? How do the brands — and the norms themselves — fare when compared to internationally accepted drinking water norms, such as that of the World Health Organization or the US Food and Drug Administration for pdrinking water?
The laboratory collected 2 bottles each of 17 bottled drinking water brands — the top five brands such as Bisleri (Aqua Minerals Ltd), Bailley (Parle Agro Pvt. Ltd), Pure Life (Nestle India Ltd), Aquafina (Pepsico India Holding Pvt Ltd) and Kinley (Hindustan Coca Cola Beverage Pvt. Ltd) and other less popular brands — being sold in Delhi and nearby Gurgaon and Meerut. The bottles were randomly purchased. They were then analysed for 12 organochlorines and 8 organophosphorus pesticides using a method called gas chromatography (GC). The testing process was based on the United States Environment Protection Agency testing procedure for pesticides in drinking water.