imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

IN MY EYES: Think before you drink

A local toughie once said: Drink beer, conserve water.

Mang Maing retorts: Drink safe water and conserve the beer for the afternoon session.

When I was young, our municipality worked on a potable water system to reach all the houses in the poblacion area. The water come from Magarang Falls, a protected water supply on the mountain.

Many years later, water stopped to reach the pipe faucets. Just two years ago, the municipal mayor revived the project and so, water flows again.

But not all houses are provided with this natural spring potable water, fellas.

How safe has been this water?

Well, my parents and I started drinking it. My mother was 83 when she died and my father is now 83 and still drinking from it.

But to many who do not have a stable drinking supply, they would resort to bottled water from water stations. But how safe is the water coming from these refilling stations? Are they really “mineral” water or just plain purified drinking water?

Unlike tap water that is delivered straight to your faucets at home, mineral water is bottled water containing added minerals or other dissolved substances for therapeutic or taste altering value. So, before you buy and drink that bottled water, read the label and see if there really are minerals in it.

Pureui water says:

Water refilling stations are becoming a common fixture in almost every community, especially in the metro. About 60% of households in the Philippines get their water from these refilling stations, according to surveys.

If we look at it based on each refilling station’s purification process, their water is safe enough. Reverse osmosis, distillation, activated carbon filters, ozone generators, and other technical terms give us the re-assurance that the water is safe.

But no matter how advanced the technology is, we can never be sure of water safety. This is not because their purification process is lacking, but because our suki water refillers are likely doing a lot of things wrong.

To ensure the safety for the whole family, here’s what to check when you get your refill water bottle at home:

1. What does the refilling station look like?

Water refilling stations need a Sanitary Permit to operate, but this isn’t just about their filters and purifiers. Sanitation also includes how they maintain the equipment, workstations, and containers.

Most contamination happens not inside the tanks, but outside. Your suki refilling station should keep their counters, equipment, and other surfaces clean. Having dirty grout, dusty countertops, and even unclean floors should raise a few red flags about how your container is being handled.

2. Are the staff wearing protective gear?

It’s common to see the personnel at our local water refilling stations wearing casual clothes, if not pambahay. But according to Department of Health standards, they should be wearing a set of protective gear. They should be wearing face masks, scrub suits, an apron, and gloves. This is to minimize human contact, which then minimizes risks of contamination.

3. Is it really clean?

The plastic, light blue containers must be properly sanitized before refilling—that is, these undergo sterilization and must be washed without detergent or dishwashing soaps (as what happens at most refilling stations). The same goes for the caps and spout, if applicable. Moreover, it’s not enough to just blast the inside of the container with high-pressure water to clean it. Sterilization is really the best approach to this.

6. Is it dusty?

Your water should be delivered as soon as possible after refilling. The more time the container spends sitting in a corner, on the floor, or on an open sidecar or mini truck bed, the higher the risk for contamination. This isn’t just about contact with human hands, but also air pollutants. Dust, smoke, and other debris are all possible contaminants that can get into your water. This scenario also points out another common mistake by refilling stations: containers should be stored and delivered in sanitized transports, not bikes or other similar open-air vehicles.

7. Is it warm/hot?

Heat, water and plastic do not mix. This is why a lot of food and drink products say these should be kept away from direct sunlight or should be kept in a cool, dry place. Some plastic containers could release certain chemicals when heated, which then goes to the water. Sunlight and water could also encourage bacteria growth.

But are all bottled water safe, fellas?

Readers Digest’s wellness program says: In a recent study, samples of two brands were contaminated with phthalates, in one case exceeding Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for tap water. These chemicals, used to make plastic softer, are found in cosmetics and fragrances, shower curtains, even baby toys, and are under increasing scrutiny. They’re endocrine disrupters, which mean they block or mimic hormones, affecting the body’s normal functions. And the effects of exposure to the widespread chemicals may add up.

When exposed to high levels of phthalates during critical developmental periods, male fetuses can have malformed reproductive organs, including undescended testicles. Some experts link phthalates to low sperm counts. Water bottles do not contain the chemical, which means the phthalates detected by the NRDC probably got into the water during processing at the bottling plant, or were present in the original water source (phthalates have been found in some tap water).

So, next time you gulp that bottled water you bought, fellas, read the label, think and ask yourself: Is this really safe?

Therefore, think before you drink.

Including the beer.