Water way to go
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Water way to go

A mineral-water bottle dangling near toned butts has become so common a sight that it could well be called a hip flask. Now it seems it could also give you cirrhosis, going by the CSE study.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2003 20:44 IST

A mineral-water bottle dangling near toned butts has become so common a sight that it could well be called a hip flask. Now it seems it could also give you cirrhosis, going by the Centre for Science and Environment study which revealed that ‘safe’ bottled water could cause cancer. Worse, it could ruin your sex life. So now, Nobody Says I’m Aquafina.

Ever since the story on dangerous levels of pesticide contamination broke, the Mineral Water Classes have talked of nothing else — while taking swigs from their clear plastic bottles. In Mumbai, it was safer to drink Bisleri because the brand leader was only the seventh-worst contaminated here compared to its alarming third place in Delhi. However, it all got evened out because, it being hotter here, Mumbaiites had to drink more of it during their Parleys.

In Mumbai, Oxyrich was found to be the most hazardous brand, the hyped oxygen richness being balanced out by even more generous lashings of potentially carcinogenic chemicals. Maybe it might have been safer to have let them continue manufacturing gutka.

Pepsi’s Aquafina emerged the safest in Mumbai, while rival Coca-Cola’s Kinley clocked in as the fourth least-contaminated. Media circles are abuzz with rumours that Amitabh, Aishwarya, Adnan, Tendulkar, Gavaskar, etc will now be shown in the ads swigging their respective bottled water instead of Cola in a bid to restore public confidence, and top-line revenues. Yet, however dirty the Cola Wars have become, it is unlikely that Pepsi will go so far as to feature an Aamir look-alike proclaiming, ‘Ganda matlab Coca-Cola’.

It’s in the interest of all parties to mount a joint damage-control exercise. One spokesperson has already used the diversionary tactic of demanding a similar probe into ground water, which is the reservoir of raw stocks. There is another yet-untapped argument. Bottled water manufacturers should point out that the findings must be unreliable since the tests were conducted using American methodology whereas the standards they applied were European. When the stand of different countries of the EEC is so incompatible with the USA’s position on Iraq, there is every reason to suspect the validity of the CSE’s indictment.

No, there is no likelihood of Hans Blix altering his ticket-routing and arriving here with his inspection team since no one has as yet suggested that this clandestinely toxic bottled water could also be deployed for chemical warfare. But, then, with George Bush around, anything is possible. Cross-bottle terrorism could well become a bigger head-ache than the migraine associated with Chlorpyrifos, which the CSE study found at such disturbing levels.

Lindane was the other culprit present, and both chemicals have the capability of attacking the CNS. That’s the central nervous system, and not to be mistaken for Mumbai’s CST, even if the millions who are exposed to this railway terminus suffer from the same side-effects of nausea, cramps, blurred vision and allergic rhinitis. Incidentally, while no causal link may yet have been established between prostate cancer and being forced to sit with your thighs tightly squeezed in crowded locals, any disease associated with being prostrate is completely ruled out. There simply isn’t room on these trains to stretch out full length.

The best place to look for parallels with last week’s contamination controversy is the Socia-lite world of both Delhi and Mumbai. Even a layperson can see that water-retained pesticides can be as effectively deployed against the usual suspects at alcohol-retentive parties. Herbicides could be sprayed on our flashy night-blooming weeds; insecticides could demolish an assortment of borers; fungicides could tackle mouldy creeps; and rodenticides could eliminate the pesky bar- rats.

There’s more similarity. Just like the water-contaminating chemicals in pesticides, some party animals are active ingredients of the People pages, and others are additives thrown in to emulsify or extend the A-List. Some are put in as diluents, when a high-profile crowd is too potent to handle on its own.

Several ageless wonders of my acquaintance would not speak to me for three lifetimes if I were to dare compare them to a Bisleri bottle. But, think about it. The Salon circuit routinely resorts to chemical interventions to look young. Is this all that different from the fact that the Green Revolution could not have been possible without the advent of the Chemical Age?

One last thought, the side-effects of high living — cirrhosis and pancreatic ulcers, to name only two — could become infinitely more rampant should our celebrated party-throwers decide to serve Royal Aqua instead of Royal Salute. Going by the findings of the CSE report, bottled water would leave us much worse than merely pissed.


Alec Smart said, “We’re all winning World Cup prizes. Hope they win something too.”

First Published: Feb 08, 2003 22:49 IST