Testing the purity of packaged water products

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Posted by on Thursday August 6, 2015 at 10:14:26:

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How pure is pure water? In Nigeria, pure water is term used to refer to package water products since they have been treated and made safer for drinking but it doesn't mean that it's actually pure but just the fact that it's purer that what the government or society has freely provided.

Water in Nigeria is sourced from several places such as from pipes, boreholes, well, rain water as well as streams and rivers. Those kinds of water are normally made to undergo a further treatment before it can be certified fit for human consumption. Several companies and small businesses now make profit from making water safer for drinking by treating, packaging and retailing it to end consumers.

How is water normally treated by these Nigerian businesses? Well, it mostly involves a method(reverse osmosis) that passes water through several rock sediments to remove particles, through activated carbon to remove taste and odour, through micro-filters to make it cleaner and then sterilization using chemicals such as chlorine and/or an Ultraviolet light bulb. Few companies which have more assets go the extra mile by using boilers to produced distilled water which is actually the purest water product commercially available in Nigeria.

The bottom-line is that majority of Nigerians basically buy water to drink and what they consume is not exactly pure water but treated water which is not entirely bad but there is a need for Nigerian consumers to actually know the purity of the water they are consuming because not all water products are of the same quality. Naturally, people will ultimately stick to water products they trust the most and can afford and they know that good water is colourless, odourless and tasteless.

When I was a kid, one of the ways through which we treated our pipe borne water before drinking it was by boiling it first and then filling it in bottles following by refrigerating it. Nowadays, it's much easier to just buy package water products in sachets or bottles. Even pipe-borne waters are hardly available or worth using again in Nigeria noways as people rely more on bore hole water.

As a result of the fact that packaged water products are consumed by majority of Nigerians, the Nigerian government has agencies such as National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to regulate the activities of those companies with the goal of protecting health of ordinary Nigerians but it is still not a guarantee that the water Nigerians consume is entirely safe because government agencies are not always 100% efficient. It is advisable for any Nigerian who consumes packaged water products either in sachet or bottles to know
how pure or safe the water really is.

What if an average Nigerian can test the level of water purity himself? What if one can do it without having to go to a Chemistry lab or mix chemicals just to find it out? Well, thanks to modern technology, they can do something like that.

There are many electronic devices that can be used to test the purity level of water and they are even available in the market.

Two devices I'm sure you can use to test the purity and safety of drinking water is with a TDS meter and a PH meter.

So, one cool device I've used is the HM Digital TDS-EZ Water Quality TDS Tester. It is basically a TDS tester. TDS here means Total Dissolved Solids which refers to compounds or substances that have been dissolved in the water which may not be visible to your eyes or even change the colour of the water. The goal of this electronic device is to test the level of dissolved solids that are in the water. Ordinarily, pure water is not meant to have any impurities like dissolved solids or salts such as Calcium, Magnesium and others. The less dissolved salts or substances that are in the water, the purer it is and so by using a TDS tester or meter, you can get to know if one water product is pure than the other by simply comparing their TDS results. The one with a higher TDS value is not as pure as the one with a lower TDS value. It is that easy.

You can simply use the TDS tester by powering it on, placing it in a glass containing the water and allowing the values to read. Record the values, remove the device and clean it with distilled water. You can then use the same device in the same manner to test another water product. I tried it on a distilled bottled water product and sachet water and found out that the former was actually purer since it had a lower TDS value.

Another cool device you can use to test the purity or safety of drinking water in Nigeria is a PH meter. A PH meter can test for the acidity or alkalinity of water or any liquid it is inserted into and put it on a PH scale which ranges from 0 to 14. Acidity levels range from 1 to 6, while Alkalinity reads from 8 to 14 with 7 being the neutral or mid-point. Acidic water tends to be corrosive as it contains more toxic metals which is not good for your body. Also, if the water it too basic/alkalinic such as going close to 14, then it's also not good and that's why it's recommended to a bit between the middle.

So, the closer the water is to 7, the safer it is to drink and it's even better for it to be a bit basic than acidic. There is a standard given by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) as well as NAFDAC on what the PH level for drinking water should be. In fact, any water product that has a PH level outside the recommended range of 6.5 to 8.5 is not considered safe for drinking and it is the duty of NAFDAC to even disapprove of such packaged products.

You can get a PH meter from Amazon and I recommend the Mudder Pocket Pen Type pH Meter. Using a PH meter to test for the safety of drinking water is about the same way we used the first device. Power it on and insert it into a glass or cup containing the water, allow for readings to read and not it. If it's not within the recommended range, then it's not safe.

Don't just keep drinking any pure(sachet) or bottled water product you see in the market because they are not all the same. You need to test and see which of them is the best and stick to them with the hope that they'll maintain their standards. However, I think the best way to get clean water is by doing it yourself at home using something like a water distiller.

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