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Summer Water Challenge

July 30th, 2019

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Commentary on ‘Clean Water, Dirty Tricks’ – CBC Marketplace

CBC Marketplace recently aired an exposé called ‘Clean Water, Dirty Tricks’ about unscrupulous water filter companies in Ontario that are using unethical and fraudulent  sales tactics to scare elderly people  into purchasing $3500 reverse osmosis water treatment systems. These companies are clearly and appallingly exploitive.

Tom Harrington, host of the show, quite rightly sought out and aired professional clarification about the misleading water testing methods used by these door-to-door salesmen.

However, we would like to comment on what we believe to be a further distortion of the facts about exposure to chlorine and one of its groups of disinfection by-products known as THMs (Trihalomethanes).

The show airs an interview with an Ontario health official, edited in a way that seems to deny any negative health effects from exposure to chlorine and THMs in our municipally supplied water. The interviewee says that there is ‘no risk, zero’.

It is quite true that, with the type of water systems our society has resorted to utilizing, the use of a chemical disinfectant is critical for inhibiting dangerous microbes.

However, one does not have to be a scientist or a government official to have firsthand experience that exposure to chlorine has unpleasant, if not dangerous, consequences.

The official interviewee asserts that THM levels in our drinking water are safe. However, he fails to tell the bigger story – that there are increasing efforts being made to control THM levels ($850 million being spent by Metro Vancouver on our new filtration plant) precisely because of increasing concerns about the negative health effects of chorination by-products.

Many communities in Europe have steered away from the use of chlorine for water disinfection because of concern about negative health consequences.

However, chlorine is relatively inexpensive and has residual effectiveness that is not characteristic of some alternatives. We also suspect its continued use well serves the commercial interests of very big chemical corporations who fund studies on its safety and health effects.

The official stance typically uses ‘inconclusive’ evidence as a justification to say there is ‘no risk’.

This writer is of the opinion that the ‘inclusive evidence’ will one day result in disclosure that no amount of these chemicals is healthy for exposure or ingestion. Barely more than 3 years ago the same type of debate was going on about BPA – a substance that is now banned in Canada.