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Desalination plant in Ajman, UAE

It is no secret that water in the Arab peninsula is a scarce resource. It is in fact well known that the world is being challenged by changes in climate, and because of this, water is becoming a very scarce commodity. A lot is being done to desalinate water, making it potable and safe for consumers.

However, case studies done on bottled water quality, advertised and sold in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) show that many brands barely meet the minimum standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The UAE is a proud nation, it aims to adhere to the highest living standards and also set standards in architecture like the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, or many other architectural wonders already in place in the UAE, so it stands to reason that there should be a strong focus on minimum standards that apply to the health and food safety in the consumption of bottled water.

Unless it is fresh spring water from a verifiable source, with a maximum of 100 ppm total dissolved solids (TDS), water being consumed is not healthy at all. The standard set forth in the United Arab Emirates thus aims to protect consumers from harmful substances in bottled water, however, local brands and famous international market leaders sometimes compromise in the quality of the bottled water, and thus not in compliance to the standard.

Follow the link below for the official document:

The table on the left is a page extract of the standard that the UAE has set for bottled water, but in reality, studies and information on the product labels show that these safe values are seldom achieved. So, the standard is set to protect consumers from poor quality water, or the content of the bottle.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority established a Code of Practice No.(5)/2011 that deals with General Food Labelling Requirements, and the principle underlying the labelling of food is that the purchaser must not be misled. The information on the label must be clear and unambiguous and must not be such as could mis-lead the consumer to a material degree. This also implies that the information on the label must be in compliance with the relevant regulation protecting consumers from a product whose quality is below the standard.

Code of Practice further states that “All Food Business Operators (FBOs) in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi are obliged to ensure that the food they want to place on the Abu Dhabi market is safe, wholesome and properly labelled.

This code of practice is an essential reference document on Food Labelling in Abu Dhabi Emirate for consumers, manufacturers and ADFCA.

It aims to clarify and standardize procedures related to the identification of the required statements and information that shall appear on pre-packaged food label and provide advice regarding information on nutritional characteristics to enable consumers, including those with special dietary requirements, to make informed choices.

Instead of focussing on the relevant health hazards posed by a sub-standard product, i.e. one that does not comply with the UAE minimum standard, bottling companies focus on brand image and promote their products on less important benefits, such as some advertised that their water contains “zero calories”. This is as distracting as US American companies advertising water as being “fat-free” or “low cholesterol”.

Ridiculous, as water should not contain fat, sugar or cholesterol. Or, the high levels of Chlorine that is being added to keep water fresh and safe, where the risk of bladder cancer and other serious life threatening diseases is a real possibility. The WHO suggests a level of 0.2 to 1 mg of Chlorine per litre water.

Everything higher is considered poisonous. All potable water in the United Arab Emirates exceeds such levels by 5 times and more and can be compared to swimming pool water. In Austria Chlorine is no longer allowed in water unless in emergency cases of natural disasters. Instead potable water in Austria is being kept fresh and safe by UV light treatment.

Also the pH level and the amount of Chlorine (CL) contained in bottled water must be kept within the set standard. Tests show that some well-known brand names vary from pH 5.2 and CL 7.7 mg/l, to pH 6.1 and CL 54 mg/l. Many fail the minimum standards test in this regard.

In general, water with a pH < 6.5 is acidic, soft, and corrosive. Acidic water could contain metal ions such as iron, manganese, copper, lead, and zinc. In other words, acidic water contains elevated levels of toxic metals. Acidic water can cause premature damage to metal piping, and have associated aesthetic problems such as a metallic or sour taste. It can also stain laundry and cause “blue-green” colour staining on sinks and drains. More importantly, there are health risks associated with these toxins.

The primary way to treat the problem of low pH water is with the use of a neutralizer. The neutralizer feeds a solution into the water to prevent the water from reacting with the household plumbing or from contributing to electrolytic corrosion. A typical neutralizing chemical is soda ash. Also known as sodium carbonate, soda ash works to increase the sodium content which increases the pH of the water.

Water with a pH > 8.5 indicates that the water is hard. Hard water does not pose a health risk, but can also cause other problems. These problems include an alkali taste to the water (making that morning coffee taste bitter!), formation of scale deposits on dishes, utensils, and laundry basins, difficulty in getting soaps and detergents to lather, and the formation of insoluble precipitates on clothing.

A lower than 6 pH level stands for acidic water that contains harmful contamination with heavy metals such as iron.

Another very important criteria is of course the total dissolved solids (TDS) content. Similar test results on some known brands, although with an acceptable pH level of 7 may contain as much as 130 ppm mg/l TDS, where others results show a very poor 480 ppm mg/l TDS and similarly poor pH level of 5.5. Some top brands hold the lowest ranking position in terms of CL with 22mg/l. Some on the other hand with a TDS level of 340 ppm and an acceptable pH of 7.2, but being sold in plastic bottles that are produced from BPA-based polymer.

Since France’s world market leading plastic-bottle water company faced fierce criticism for its affinity for plastic it invested into a start-up in California for research and development of 100% natural plastic. TRITAN is so far is the only known polymer used in plastic bottles that bears no health risks to humans.

The inherent toughness of Tritan increases durability and it reduces energy use by eliminating steps in processing, such as annealing and pre-drying extruded sheet. It has lower density than polycarbonate, which yields more parts per pound or kilogram of polymer.

Parts made from Tritan are much lighter than those made of glass, which can reduce shipping energy and costs. Tritan has a significantly lower “cradle-to-grave” environmental impact than metal sports bottles—and requires less energy to process. Last but not least, Tritan is BPA – free and made without halogens, sulphur, nitrogen, lead, mercury, cadmium, or hexavalent chromium—so it helps keep these materials out of the waste stream. Traditional packaging choice for bottling of water is in #1 PET or PETE bottles (polyethylene terephthalate), which leaches DEHA, a known carcinogen, into the water. Experts agree that you should not re-use #1 plastic bottles. Plastics numbered 3, 6 and 7 are worse; they contain Bisphenol A (BPA), which is suspected of causing neurological and behavioral problems in fetuses and children.

BPA mimics the female hormone estrogen, which may have detrimental effects, including cancer of the brain, breast, and prostate, on the female reproductive system and the immune system in adults.

The ArtAqua water purification technology is the only one that keeps water fresh and safe for 180 days without any chemicals such as chlorine or being exposed to polymer contamination as the bottled ArtAqua water comes in Tritan-based bottles.

And, being of purest Spring Water quality with only a TDS of 25 ppm it provides consumers with the highest level water quality that meet the UAE standards. At pH 7.8 depending on requirements by clients who wish to use water as a health supplement at a fraction of the costs of brand names. Water is meant to transport the minerals taken in by good nutrition through the body but not add unnecessary or dangerous minerals to the system.

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