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Water Scams

Consumers may become victims of several types of water scams related to water testing, water treatment, bottled water, and health issues (quackery). Consumers can decrease their chance of becoming victims by staying well-informed.

Water Testing Scams
Water testing scams can best be avoided by having your water tested by an independent (Arizona certified) laboratory that uses state-of-the-art USEPA-approved methods. Avoid “free” home water tests. Sellers may claim that they are using “EPA-registered” methods to test your water. This only means that they have registered their test with the USEPA; it does not mean that the USEPA has approved their test. It is very easy to make the color of water change with the addition of a drop of some chemical. Color changes do not necessarily mean that your water has a particular pollutant or excessive levels of pollutants.

Water Treatment Scams
These can be relatively benign: for example, selling a treatment device that is not needed. They also can be fraudulent when consumers are sold a device that does not work as claimed. Several devices claim to control or eliminate scale formation and/or remove minerals from water. These include magnets (magnetic or electromagnetic), electronic devices, depressurizing devices, catalytic, oscillation, vibration, and light devices (other than ultraviolet radiation). There is no scientific evidence that any of these devices reduce or remove salts, prevent scale formation, or perform any other type of useful home water treatment. Again, consumers may encounter home water treatment systems that claim to be “EPA-registered.” As with water testing, this does not mean that their system has been tested, approved, or endorsed for home use by the USEPA. The NSF certifies all water treatment technologies for the reduction of specific contaminants (including those previously discussed in this section), and it maintains a list of manufacturers that have tested and registered their home treatment devices with this organization.

Bottled Water Scams
These may be benign in nature, but they also can be costly over time. A notable scam claims that oxygenated or super-oxygenated water will provide all sorts of benefits, from adding extra oxygen to your blood, changing the structure of water, and “hydrating” you faster to “retard” aging. Other bottled water scams may claim that “magnetized” or “ionized” water from remote glaciers or springs has numerous healing properties. None of these claims has any scientific evidence (visit the NSF website for further discussion of bottled water).

Portions of this text have been adapted from Hairston, J.E., D. Rodekohr, E. Brantley, and L. Bice, “Drinking water and water treatment scams,” Auburn, AL: Auburn University, Agronomy and Soils Department, Water Quality Timely Information, Oct. 22, 2003.

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