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Is packaged water safe? Maharashtra FDA to conduct tests to find out

mumbai Updated: Sep 22, 2017 20:43 IST
Mumbai news,FDA,drinking water

(Picture for representation)

Is the packaged water you drink safe? The Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) department will soon find out.

Two years after researchers at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) found excessive levels of bromate, a potentially harmful chemical compound, in more than 27% of packaged drinking water samples in Mumbai,the Maharashtra FDSA last week launched their own investigation.

“We have set guidelines for bromate levels in packaged drinking water to 10 milligram per litre (mg/L) as per the existing international standards (World Health Organisation). Investigations are going on,” said Dr V K Pancham, official from the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (Western Zone).

The BARC study had noted the levels of bromate in packaged drinking water in Mumbai at 10.7mg/L. Researchers pointed out the health risks (carcinogenic risk and hazard quotient) associated with the ingestion of bromate, chlorite and chlorate present in packaged drinking water.

“Since there were no established guidelines for the necessary levels of disinfectant by products of packaged drinking water manufacturing, our previous surveys couldn’t yield any results. Now, since FSSAI has communicated the guidelines, we have started collecting water samples to test for the presence of hazardous chemical,” said an FDA official.

Scientists said that if bromate is found in packaged drinking water, the practice of filtration needs to be changed completely or banned. “Drinking water goes through a series of filtrations, including Reverse Osmosis (RO), or ultra-filtration techniques, followed by ozone treatment, which shouldn’t allow bromate ingression,” said professor Bhaskar Thorat, head of chemical engineering department, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai.

A complaint was filed on July 7, after the BARC study with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by a health activist in Mumbai, seeking appropriate action against the violators. While the FSSAI was asked to submit a report within four weeks, the complaint was forwarded to the Maharadhtra FDA, asking them to investigate the issue and take necessary action.

Thorat added that potassium bromate, a compound earlier used as a disinfectant or preservative, was banned as a part of food or water manufacturing practices across the world, after several studies proved that it is a health hazard and a carcinogenic component. Use of potassium bromate, in baking bread was banned in India in October 2016 after a similar study done by Delhi-based Center of Science and Environment (CSE) found it in 84% of bread products and brands. It was used with potassium iodate, to increase the strength of the dough.

WHO fact file

International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialised cancer agency of WHO, has classified potassium bromate in Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans), concluding that there is inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans, but sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.

Toxic effects of bromate salts include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, anuria and diarrhea, varying degrees of central nervous system depression, hemolytic anemia and pulmonary edema.

Irreversible effects include renal failure and deafness, both of which have been observed following the ingestion of 240–500 mg of potassium bromate per kg of body weight.

In children, serious poisonings have been reported following ingestion of 60–120ml of 2% potassium bromate (equivalent to 46–92 mg of bromate per kg of body weight per day for a 20-kg child).

Bromate produces tumors at multiple sites in male rats, including the kidney the thyroid gland and the peritoneum.

Male mice were given potassium bromate in drinking water at concentrations of 0, 0.08, 0.4 or 0.8 g/litre (approximately 0, 6.9, 32.5 and 59.6 mg of bromate per kg of body weight per day) for 100 weeks. A significant increase in the combined incidence of renal adenomas and carcinomas was observed in mice given 6.9 mg of bromate per kg of body weight per day.

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 15:32 IST