HomeSafetyContaminated mineral waters, the Altroconsumo test

Contaminated mineral waters, the Altroconsumo test

Mineral waters, investigation by AltroConsumo. A poker of contaminants - benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene - was detected in 19 bottles of mineral water among the 42 analyzed in the laboratory. On the other hand, disinfectant residues were found in 2 waters, which are not allowed in natural mineral waters. The data emerging from the report of the first consumer association in Italy deserve further checks by the competent health authorities.

BTEX, 19 contaminated mineral waters in Italy

A poker of contaminants - benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, grouped in the acronym BTEX - was traced by laboratory analyzes in 19 of the 42 waters tested. The 4 substances'are part of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can contaminate soil and groundwater as a result of anthropogenic activities or derive from plastic of the bottles', explains AltroConsumo.

The causes of the contamination they will have to be ascertained on a case-by-case basis by the bottling industries and health authorities. Especially by verifying the chemical safety of food for the most vulnerable categories of consumers (YOPI, Young, Old, Pregnant, Infants). With particular attention to the exposure of infants and children to toxic substances, increasingly considering that the use of mineral water is often recommended as 'ideal' for preparing breast milk replacement formulas (so-called growth milk).

The levels of contamination have not been made public. Following, the brands found to be contaminated by BTEX in AltroConsumo tests:

A) Private labels
Esselunga Dolomites
Eurospin Blues

B) Branded waters 
Nestle Vera
Evian (France)
San Gemini
I recover
San Benedetto
Source Guizza
Great Guizza
I spoke
Very light
Drop Of Carnia

BTEX, risks and prohibitions

Mono-aromatic hydrocarbons - benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) - are common pollutants, detected in groundwater plumes and other water resources, following the disposal of contaminated industrial effluents and accidental events such as oil spills and derivatives (Alberici et al. , 2002, Castillo et al., 1998; Mazzeo et al., 2010; Costa et al., 2012).

The dangers to health associated with exposure to these compounds in the diet include tumors, liver injury, sleepiness and organ irritation (Zhang et al., 2012; Tunsaringkarn et al., 2012). Mitra and Roy (2011) also reported that human exposure to BTEX compounds over a long period of time causes skin and sensory irritation, adverse respiratory health effects and central nervous system irritation. Despite the negative effects they have on human health, BTEX contamination often remains neglected and untreated in public water networks, resulting in an increased risk of waterborne diseases. (1)

'In natural mineral waters the following substances or compounds deriving from anthropic activity must not be present; failure to find such substances (...) constitutes a guarantee of quality for mineral water:
1. Surfactants
2. Dissolved or emulsified mineral oils-hydrocarbons
3. Benzene
4. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
5. Pesticides
6. Polychlorinated biphenyls
7. Organohalogen compounds. ' (2)

Mineral waters with residues of disinfectants

Residues of compounds 'which may indicate a possible disinfection treatment, not permitted by law in the case of natural mineral waters'were found in 2 of the 42 bottles of mineral waters being analyzed, reports Altroconsumo. Precisely in the waters
- FIUGGI Oligominerale, from the Fiuggi spring (FR),
- SMERALDINA Oligomineral, from the source: Monti di Deu, of Tempio Pausania (Olbia).

The presence of residues of disinfectants is an indication of possible irregularities. The relevant legislation in fact forbids submitting thenatural mineral water to 'purification treatments, the addition of bactericidal or bacteriostatic substances and any other treatment likely to modify the microbism of natural mineral water'. (3)

'They are considered natural mineral waters waters which, originating from an underground aquifer or reservoir, come from one or more natural or perforated springs and which have particular hygienic characteristics and, possibly, properties favorable to health'. (4)

Dario Dongo and Marta Strinati

Footnotes to the story

(1) OM Fayemiwo, MO Daramola, K Moothi ​​(2017). BTEX compounds in water - future trends and directions for water treatment. Water SA vol. 43 n.4 Pretoria Oct. 2017. doi:
(2) Ministry of Health Decree of 10 February 2015, Evaluation criteria of the characteristics of natural mineral waters, Article 2 (Evaluation criteria of the chemical, physico-chemical and organoleptic characteristics of natural mineral waters)
(3) See Legislative Decree 176/11, Implementation of Dir. 2009/54 / EC, on the use and marketing of natural mineral waters, article 8.4
(4) Idem cs, article 2

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".


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