In the past most Chinese paid little attention to the production methods of their mineral water and probably never even heard of bromate, but after this chemical was linked with mineral water as a carcinogen, people began taking notice.
A customer stands in front of the shelves full of mineral water products in this undated photo. [File Photo: Youth Weekend]
High levels of bromate have been found in some mineral water brands being sold in the markets, but none of the producers have warnings or related information on their packages, reports the Beijing-based Youth Weekend journal.
"The chemical comes from the ozone disinfection process which has been widely adopted by domestic water manufacturers," reveals Yue Yinling, an environment and health technician from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yue's team conducted a random sampling of more than ten brands of mineral water two years ago. Results showed that the highest bromate level in one sample was five times above the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limit.
Yue says bromate has been named as a 2b-level carcinogen by some international cancer research centers. People that absorb high levels of bromate for sustained periods increase their likelihood of contracting cancer.
However, for more than a decade China's national standards contained no limit for the chemical in mineral water production.
This loophole has slowed down the pace of upgrading techniques for eliminating bromate, as manufacturers fear the higher costs, says Guo Xinguang, the official in charge of drafting new criterion.
Guo says the new standards will be complete within the year and will be based on the country's standard for drinking water that was put into force last year and contains a limit on bromate.
The official says a moderate loosening of the limits on bacterium will be put into effect in hopes of reducing the ozone used in the disinfection process.
Producers are also being urged to fulfill their responsibility to let consumers know the side effects of the chemical, the report says.
Qiu Baochang, a lawyer with the Chinese Consumer Association, says, apart from efforts to lower bromate levels in products, factories should inform consumers through warnings on packages of the dangers brought about by excessive ingestion of bromate.
The lawyer also urges the relevant government departments to break the cloud of silence that hangs over the issue so as to raise the public awareness of the dangerous material.
A worker loads bottled mineral water on the rack of his bicycle, ready for delivery. [File Photo: Youth Weekend]
(CRI June 27, 2008)