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Why Your Water Stinks

We all need water to live, but some of us here in the US don't like to drink the water from our taps because it SMELLS FUNNY. Large parts of the world have a bigger problem: POISON which occurs NATURALLY in their drinking water.

"Fruity plastic" is among several uncomplimentary terms that a panel of water "sensory experts" use to describe the odor of drinking water from the plastic piping that is finding its way into an increasing number of homes these days. The sampling was part of research on how plumbing materials affect the odor and taste of drinking water.

Researcher Andrea Dietrich's tasting team uses two methods to evaluate odors associated with several types of plastic piping, which is now being widely used because it is cheaper and less likely to deteriorate than conventional metal pipes. First, they smell and describe the odor of the water after it sits in the pipes for several days. Then the water undergoes chemical analyses. Some of the other terms these expert use to describe the water they tasted are "waxy plastic citrus" and "burning plastic." Fortunately, the odors are not long lasting. Dietrich says, "We find that after about two months, most of the odors and water quality effects have gone to background." How quickly the odors disappear depends on the amount of water usage?when a household uses more water, the odors fade faster.

Dietrich and her group evaluated several types of plastic piping: cPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride), HDPE (high-density polyethylene), and PEX-aA and PEX-b, all of which are approved and certified for use in drinking water. In case you're about to replace YOUR pipes, it's good to know that "we found that cPVC has a low odor potential and it doesn't seem to release many organic chemicals," according to Dietrich. "HPDE actually had the highest odor production?and the PEX-b pipe had a moderate amount of odors. PEX-a had fewer odors?than the PEX-b pipe." Asked if there may be any bad health effects from the leached compounds, Dietrich says that is still under investigation and she doesn't have any answers at this point.

In BBC News, Richard Black reports that around 140 million people in developing countries have a lot more to worry about than how their water SMELLS?they are being poisoned by arsenic in their drinking water, which will lead to high rates of cancer in the future?in countries where there are no sophisticated treatments for the disease.

Most of this arsenic occurs in the water in South and East Asia. When the water is used to grow rice, which is the staple food there, it can also pose a health risk. Black quotes researcher Peter Ravenscroft as saying, "It's a global problem, present in 70 countries, probably more. If you work on drinking water standards used in Europe and North America, then you see that about 140 million people around the world are above those levels and at risk."

California esearcher Allan Smith says, "In the long term, one in every 10 people with high concentrations of arsenic in their water will die from it. This is the highest known increase in mortality from any environmental exposure." The metal is present naturally in the soil and leaches into the water.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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