Five brands of popular packaged water produced in Warri have been screened for coliform, physical and selected chemical characteristics, including cadmium, chromium and lead for the objective of determining potability using appropriate methods. Sachets and bottled water samples were collected from production plants, wholesale outlets and street hawkers. The results were in the following range: pH, 7.1 to 8.2; Total dissolved solids (TDS), 2.26 to 89.6 mg/l; Turbidity, 0.45 to 2.55 NTU; Calcium, 0.11 to 1.21 mg/l; Magnesium, 0.03 to 0.31 mg/l; Sulphate, 0 to 1.21 mg/l; chloride, 0.5 to 3.1 mg/l; nitrate, 0.2 to 0.25 mg/l. Cadmium was detected in three brands in both sachets and bottles and ranged from 0.001 to 0.002 mg/l. Lead detected ranged from 0.001 to 0.003 mg/l and chromium: 0.001 to 0.002 mg/l. While all parameters are well below regulatory guidelines, attention is drawn to the predominantly low Total dissolved solids (TDS) which indicates that the packaged water in Warri is demineralized. Prolonged consumption of demineralized water has been shown from elsewhere to result in micronutrient deficiencies, especially in calcium and magnesium that have been associated with high incidence of ailments including, dieresis, hypertension and coronary heart disease among others. Cohort-epidemiological studies are recommended in Warri and environs where packaged water is the most important drinking water source in order to establish any such health related linkages. Study results would guide water supply policy and regulatory action.
Key words: Packaged water, low TDS, heavy metals, public health, Warri, water policy.
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