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F.ood & H.ealth : Agri. & Environ. Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Protecting the Quality of What We Drink: Bromides on Bromate
By Ross Getman
Aug 12, 2006, 09:46

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Wegmans, a grocery store chain in New York and the mid-Atlantic states, has demonstrated how a responsible corporation acts in connection with consumer health. It has noticed the recall of all its storebrand bottled water products and offered consumers a refund because some tests showed above 10 parts per billion of bromate, a known carcinogen.

In testing by one independent lab, 1 out of 2 bottled waters tested above the EPA/FDA 10 ppb limit for the carcinogen bromate. Testing therefore should be done around the country given that the present regulatory scheme relies on self-reporting and there can be variance between batches based on the level of ozonization and the duration. A company may submit only levels below the 10 ppb limit and the state public health agency may never be the wiser. The bottled waters that should be tested are those (a) where ozonization is used in disinfectng natural spring waters and (b) where the ozonization is used on tap water to which calcium chloride, a bromide derivative, is added.

Coca-Cola, which is now subject to a furor regarding pesticides in its soft drinks in India, pulled all of its newly launched Dasani in Great Britain after it was found to exceed the carcinogen bromate.

"Through detailed analysis, we discovered that our product did not meet our quality standards. Because of the high level of bromide contained in the calcium chloride, a derivate of bromide, bromate was formed at a level that exceeded UK legal standards. This occurred during the ozonisation process we employ in manufacturing."

"Our consumers rightly expect that our products meet only the highest possible standards for quality as well as all UK regulations," the company added.

A spokeswoman for the FSA told the UK's Press Association: "This is a sensible measure by the company as bromate is a chemical that could cause an increased cancer risk as a result of long-term exposure, although there is no immediate risk to public health."

"However, the agency understands that some consumers may choose not to drink any Dasani they purchased prior to its withdrawal, given the levels of bromate it contains."

British limits for bromate in bottled and tap waters, like the US, are 10 parts per billion, a Coca-Cola spokesman told Reuters, and the Dasani samples had tested at between "borderline" (about 10) and 22 parts per billion.

In the US, the limit for bromate is 10 ppb. The limit is strictly enforced -- for example, a company in New York State recently quietly pulled their water from the shelves at 10 ppb, even though it was not 11 ppb.

The International Ozone Association has made public their research on the subject and has given several proposals to avoid bromate formation, which include switching to atmospheric tank contact systems, lowering the water pH, and limiting the doses of ozone.

The FDA in the past found bromate at concentrations of up to 40 micrograms/l -- which is 4 times the present federal standard. Food safety agencies should do testing for bromates around the world. In the US, the tests commonly cost $20 to $40.

Today there are more then 100 US Bottled Waters available domestically. Any imported bottled water brand sold in the United States must meet all of the same federal and state regulations that apply to domestically produced bottled water brands.

To launch an economical testing program, first eliminate those that do not use ozonization as the disinfectant process. Then give priority to those high in minerals, whether naturally occurring in the spring water or added. That is, priority could be given to those with a high TDS (Total Dissolved Solid).

If the NYS Department of Health learns of an unflavored bottled water testing over 10 ppb for bromate, it will require a recall. But did you know that to avoid any reporting requirement as to bromate to the NYS Department of Health, all a company has to do is add a flavor to the water? If the state agencies like the NYS DOH won't make the reports available (by uploading them) -- and if legislators won't protect consumers by having the regulations apply equally to flavored water -- then consumer groups or media outlets should test the waters for bromate and publish the results.

My friend Larry Alibrandi and I told Wegmans, our favorite grocery store, that its bottled water tested well above the limit -- and they promptly did the right thing. They no doubt will promptly use a supply without the problem -- or fix the problem at their current supplier.

What are you and your kids drinking?

Toxic Mix: The Global Failure To Disclose Carcinogenic Chemical Contaminants in Soft Drinks

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