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Aquasana-China is featured as a recommended source for clean water in TheBeijinger magazine. The September 2010 article covers problems with Beijing’s water safety and quality, and reviews the main options for city residents such boiled water, bottled water, and water filtration systems. Home water filters are chosen as the best option for successfully dealing with the contaminants in Chinese water while remaining cost-effective and eco-friendly. Aquasana’s countertop model attaches to your tap and is recommended above reverse osmosis systems as removing “bacteria, chlorine, and VOCs from tap water, leaving a clean Beijing mineral water” while fulfilling the criteria of third-party certification and excellent build quality.
Complete Article Below (theBeijinger – September 2010, p.28)
Water World: Think Before You Drink
Upon first arriving in Beijing, we are warned not to drink from the tap. And so we commit to bottled water – and get lulled into thinking that we’re safe. But are we?
A 2007 study found that nearly 40 percent of bottled water in Beijing is merely tap water with fake seals. (If you’re wondering why anybody would bother to counterfeit such a cheap commodity, it’s because the high sales volumes of the bottled stuff make “fake water” a very profitable business.)
In general, the main villains in tap water are bacteria, chlorine, and chemical contaminants, in particular, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Bacteria can give you stomachaches or diarrhea, so tap water is treated to kill those microorganisms, but then no one likes the taste of the chlorine that gets the job done. VOCs are most dangerous, as some have been linked to certain cancers and serious diseases.
But government tests declare our tap water safe and potable. Recently, they even promulgated a 12-year Urban Drinking Water Sources Protection Plan to ensure it. Before you breathe that sigh of relief, don’t forget the many miles of pipes and tanks between the water plants and our homes. Older homes may harbor rusty pipes and sedimentation from bad plumbing; even new homes aren’t necessarily safe, as shoddy building codes can lead to the wrong pipes or solvents being installed, leading to the contamination of otherwise good water by the time it pours from your faucets.
Specifically because water is tasteless and the bad guys invisible, it’s hard to tell what you’re getting. So how can you guarantee yourself a supply of clean drinking water? Let’s peruse the options.
Boiling … the cheapest option
Heating water is likely to kill the bacteria that chlorine hasn’t already taken care of. However, boiling neither rids the water of sedimentation nor all VOCs – and that crusty lime residue is a visible reminder of our tap water’s high mineral content. Of course, many old-time Beijingers live on boiled water; they’ll tell you that the slightly metallic taste is easily hid with a few tea leaves.
Bottled water … the lazy option
While convenient, buying small bottles as you go is the most expensive and least environmentally friendly way to stay hydrated. Also, the threat of fake bottles is ever-present with local brands. Even imports aren’t immune. In 2007, 118 tons of Evian were barred from entry for excess levels of bacteria.
Water Cooler … the popular option
The dispenser is cheap, as are the 19-liter bottles (Chinese brands usually range from RMB 12-16). They’re better for the environment, though it does take up to 2.5 bottles of water to produce one bottle of distilled water. But again, are you absolutely sure you’re not just drinking bottled tap water? Higher-priced brands, such as Watson’s (RMB 18-50) and Acquaviva (RMB 88), may be a better bet, but not a guarantee.
The dispenser is also a potential breeding ground for bacteria. Experts recommend cleaning it out every two months (and its taps every month) with a bleach solution. Lest you think this advice overcautious, just ask around … we’ve all heard nauseating stories of black mold lurking in water coolers.
Home Filtration Systems … the best option (in my humble opinion)
If you can see past the initial investment of time and money, a filtration system may be your most cost-effective option for clean drinking water. And it’s an eco-friendly option as well – less plastic, less water wasted, a smaller carbon footprint.
The most common types of filters used in Beijing include reverse osmosis and distillation systems, which create 100 percent mineral-free water. Relatively inexpensive, they’re good for removing heavy metal minerals and hardening agents, but neither method can fully remove the VOCs or chlorine found in municipal tap water. The purification process also uses up a lot of water (three liters produce one pure liter), which is wasteful in a city with a severe water shortage.
In addition, even if all the contaminants are removed, 100 percent pure water is not ideal. Some studies (including a 2003 World Health Organization report) have found negative health effects to pure water. Since water in nature has a certain amount of minerals, drinking pure water can draw minerals from your body, and the higher acidity affects teeth and calcium levels.
On the other hand, carbon filters can remove bacteria, chlorine, and VOCs from tap water, leaving a clean Beijing mineral water. The simplest filters attach directly to your faucet (e.g. Aquasana), bigger ones hook up under the sink, and the most complex systems ionize water and can adjust its pH. The price for these systems vary greatly, so do your research; for additional peace of mind, look for third-party certification and good build quality.
Resources and Links
Information: Beijing Organic Consumers Association (BOCA) Yahoo Group is an online forum that often discusses water sources. Also see www.allaboutwater.org and www.probeinternational.org/beijing-water.
Filters: Aquasana (www.aquasana-china.com, 400 000 8320 / 136 5128 5157), World Health Store (www.worldhealthstore.com.cn), B&Q, Dazhong Appliances.
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