Water Purification Systems ....Help!?!

OK so heres the deal and I am hoping theres people here that can help me out with some better answers then the ones I have.

I along with co workers had to sit through a demo for some water purification system that they are installing in our offices
and were subjected to the usual sales crap.

The lady doing the demo made a number of claims which when pressed on couldn’t provide any references besides
“I have a degree I know what in talking about”, “trust me” or the usual really bad analogies, “the government cant solve crime how are they going to make sure your water works”.

She also did an electrolysis on the tap water, which resulted in the tap water naturally breaking apart and forming a number of compounds, she called this processes precipitation and claimed that it was only removing the chlorine and leaving behind what was in the water.

The water turned a slight brownish shade with red/brown flecks floating in it. I know in distilled water this will cause a separation of hydrogen and oxygen and assumed that it was doing the same to the rest of the chemicals in the water and they were just recombining into different compounds based on what was available to them now. I would just like to know what they were cause I drank about half a glass of the stuff to see if there was a difference in taste. I couldn’t taste a difference but i don’t have the best taste buds.

There was the usual high pressure fear based selling which Im used to in these things, anyway the person made a number of claims which im having some trouble verifying.

  1. South african water’s chlorine levels are around 300 times higher then the World Health Standards
  2. Chlorine causes Cancer
  3. Chlorine causes high cholestorol
  4. the world health standard is 25 tdp (total dissolved particles), and most tap water is around 100 - 110, ie ITS REALY BAD!! :stuck_out_tongue:
  5. Organic Calcium is better then inorganic calcium

I know the answer to 4 from the following links,


which seem to indicate that a TDS count of 100 is actually pretty darn good.

I cant find anything with regards to statement 1, and I cant find any scientific papers linking increased cancer and cholesterol with chlorinated tap water. All my searches reveal is commentary from the peanut gallery on water filtration systems sales pitches.

Since I disliked the whole thing and had a pretty bad head clash with her over the organic vs inorganic calcium claims, she went so far to say calcium in water is bad, calcium in milk is good cause its “organic”.

So yeah,

  1. can anyone tell me wtf I drank?
  2. provide any clarification on the other points.
  3. any tips on how to deal with similar situations in the future.

Dont know if anyone else has had to sit through one of these things and if so what other claims were made without evidence to back it up in your presentation.

I dont have any preference for Reverse ossmosis water/ filtered water and tap water so long as its of an acceptable quality and taste, just don’t try scare me into buying something.

Would also like to know. One thing in their (filtered water)favour is the taste. I live in Middelburg MP and the tap water, when boiled for coffee, got so bad that I stopped drinking it. However with filtered water it taste fine and being a skeptic I did a proper double bind test on my wive and friends. 100% for every one, so there must be something to it. We buy the water so I don’t know the process on filtration.

Okay this is a very quick reaction during my lunch hour. I may have to return later to fill-out more detail / references or even correct my hasty statements ::).

Most likely some harmless metal oxides, but I wouldn’t make a practice of drinking that on a regular basis. I have seen this “changing the water” in foot-detox flummery where patients submerge their feet in a water bath which is electrolysed and the water becomes redish-brown (with floaty bits) in a few minutes. That lead me to this explanation of the process on a detox debunking website …

So to prepare a demo the sales person need only coat the electrodes or the container which will hold the water with an invisible layer of salt. But while the electrolysis is running, if you lean in to take a look hold your breath, that chlorine in the water (which should be there ;)) has to go somewhere …

  1. I don’t know the answer to this one either. I’d need a bit more time. My gut reaction is to ask what the dosages are which would be carcinogenic? I have a feeling that chlorine (being the deadly substance that it is) would likely be fatal in the dosages which would later lead to cancer? I could be way off on that one, I’ll see what I can find later.

  2. This is something I find unlikely. Cholesterol is a carbohydrate (made of only Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms), it is by this definition referred to as an organic compound. Chlorine is present in our water system as calcium hypochlorite (the same stuff as pool HTH - High Test Hypochlorite - hey I remember something from high school!). It is completely devoid of hydrogen so it is not a direct source of another carbohydrate and because it contains no H it is an inorganic compound. It would require H from another source to form even rudimentary organic compounds and specifically forming C27H46O sounds like it would require a lot of other strange compounds to form. That’s not to say that it is impossible to form an organic compound in such a reaction, even if Chlorine is just a reagent. What the sales person did not say was what this reaction was - what, whatelse and whatmore forms cholesterol (plus other stuff).

  3. I answered this last and started searching the WHO website but I’m running out of time. There are a lot of results for “safe levels of hypochlorite in water”. Can’t confirm those figures and I’m not sure if either the CSIR or SABS have these figures online.

  4. From the definition of “Organic” and “Inorganic” in point 3, it is impossible for Ca to be organic. Perhaps she meant “natural” instead of organic, these are not synonymous in science. But if she meant “natural” then all she is presenting is an argumentum ad naturum.

Bring popcorn, salt it from the sales person’s equipment. Ask what she has a degree in? A BA is not a BChem or BSc. If you want us to accept your argument from authority, prove your authority - and then we will ignore your argument from authority anyway ;).

Okay, I have a few minutes left. So maybe I should go into why we put hypochlorite in our water and HTH in our pools (we put it in pools at much much higher doses than there is in our tap water). Dissolved in water and kept in the dark (such as pipes underground) the hypochlorite molecule is pretty stable, it is quite harmless even to bacteria and microbial nasties who move through the water and accidentally swallow these molecules while they are (relatively) dormant in the dark. When the water containing bacteria and the other microbes is exposed to light or high heat these organisms think it’s time for fun in the sun and normally they would reproduce. But instead what happens is the HTH, the water in the bacteria and the light start a reaction. The bacteria literally rips apart becoming other compounds (including toxic Hydrochloric acid) - a rater horrible death if we were them - but then again, we have nerves to feel this happening and they do not. Not all bacteria are killed but that’s okay because the HTH keeps them below the safe level for us not to get sick.

But your pool is always in the sun, how can HTH work? Actually, if you chlorinate at night rather than during the day, the bacteria killing process is far more efficient and you can save yourself HTH costs if you always dose at night rather than during the day. Don’t forget to go out early with the sunrise and listen to the bacteria scream ;).

Phew, one hour, time’s up.

Haha, I had to come back to add this … HTH … hope this helps!!
I crack myself up.

Thanks for the response, im still looking into some of the claims myself so if i turn something else up Ill post.

I must admit that I couldnt taste the difference in the water, I will however admit that the purified water had a different mouth feel (felt softer) if that makes any sense. I also freely admit that my sense of taste and smell is a bit off as I have an almost permanently blocked sinus passage so unless you spice things up im probably not going to taste the difference.

I can answer The question about taste and its in those two links I posted, the taste ascribed to water is apparently due to the Total Dissolved Solid compounds within the water. Since different solids are present in different quantities in different areas this is what causes some water to taste different or worse then others.

With reference to 5 I did give her an out in that I stated Ca can not be organic, its a mineral and by definition is inorganic, while you may absorb it from milk or from water thats absorbed it from rock its chemical makeup is the same and its a mineral. Instead she started going on about how its somehow a different calcium when a plant absorbs it through the water, the cow eats the plant and you then drink the milk versus drinking water that has dissolved calcium in it as as this calcium acts like sandpaper and does bad things to you. The issue of naturally produced calcium vs artificially introduced calcium was not on the table at this point.

I figure chlorine is dangerous and it wouldn’t surprise me to find it linked to something like cancer, what does concern me is that statements like this are thrown out as fact and even when directly asked there is no scientific proof presented or study cited. At best you might be given an article from YOU magazine or something, the more dramatic the headline the better. I also wasn’t about to put my nose near the thing during electrolysis.

On this matter I have found the following link regarding chlorine drinking water and cancer

to quote the article:

Cancer Risk:
* No information is available on the carcinogenic effects of chlorine in humans from inhalation exposure.
* Several human studies have investigated the relationship between exposure to chlorinated drinking water and cancer.  These studies were not designed to assess whether chlorine itself causes cancer, but whether trihalomethanes or other organic compounds occurring in drinking water as a result of chlorination are associated with an increased risk of cancer.  These studies show an association between bladder and rectal cancer and chlorination byproducts in drinking water. (5)
* An NTP study reported no evidence of carcinogenic activity in male rats or male and female mice, and equivocal evidence, based on an increase in mononuclear cell leukemia, in female rats, from ingestion of chlorinated or chloraminated water. (9)
* EPA has not classified chlorine for carcinogenicity. (2)

5. R.D. Morris, A. Audet, I.F. Angelillo, T. C. Chalmers, and F. Mosteller. Chlorination, Chlorination by-products, and cancer: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 82(7):955-977. 1992.

Seems so far the only link is a meta analysis based not around chlorine but the by products of chlorination.

I dont intend to make drinking this type of water a habit but since everyone was acting like they had just seen the end of the world and was taking it at face value that “tap water is now the new Robert Mugabe and will kill you in your sleep”, I figured it was up to me to show that it was all a scare tactic.

No no, thank you for posting the topic, it is fascinating, I look forward to new information.

Well, as Tweefo pointed-out, there is a real benefit to softening. The majority of water filtration systems do this as it improves the feel of the water. Softening is not a pseudoscience but caliming that it is protecting you from harm in hard water is.

Oh too bad, we might have been able to design a JREF million dollar challenge entry from this, say, detecting via any means the difference between calcium phosphate extracted from a natrual source and a sample from the byproducts of an atrificial chemical reaction.

I found the same conclusion in the (downloadable) WHO Guidelines for drinking-water quality 2003

So if we can taste chlorine if it is at the (guestimated) WHO safe level then where does this sales person get off telling us that SA water has three hundred times the safe limit of chlorine? I can’t taste it and I love tap water.

No reason to avoid it, but I see what you’re saying, I also hate being bullied into something on baseless nonsensical scare tactics.

Back to the WHO safe levels, it includes comment on the other buzzword in the water filtration industry; “trichloroacetaldehyde”. It is mentioned by these sales people because it is one of the byproducts from chlorination and because it is so hard to spell that it is unlikely anyone will want to look it up. The short answer is that it is another Group 3 (non-carcinogen) compound dispite the repetead assertion from water filtration people that it is carcinogenic. Of course the WHO has a safe limit so that people don’t complain that they are not doing their job but they do note …

Yup, “here’s a safe level, but we could be 10 000 times wrong”.

Still can’t find South Africa’s standards on this. The Department of Water Affairs and Foresty refers a lot to the WHO levels but doesn’t seem to have anything local. The Beaureu of Standards’ website is pathetic - that search engine is a joke, all results return the visitor back to the main page.

Can anyone help on that point number 4? I have no idea what she is referring to in “Total disolved particles” or “TDP”, I didn’t find it in the WHO standards document. Is it a scientific measurement standard or just more flummery?

OK I think ive found a site thats answered most of the questions, they even have a “watch out for water filtration system sellers FAQ”

best of all its South African.

Filtration FAQ:

As to total dissolved particles standards, there doesn’t seem to be any specific value however South African water is governed by SABS/SANS 241.
This dictates the minimum quality and associated particles and contaminants allowed in drinking water. So it doesn’t seem that there is a TDS standard but there are standards governing what can be dissolved in water and how much. It also affects the taste so to high a level of TDS will probably not be suitable for drinking water just because it tastes bad.


http://www.smianalytical.com/water-testing/about-water-analysis.pdf is a good overview of what is required to do a proper water analysis.

Water Quality guidelines for South Africa can be found in

I dont seem to be able to find a copy of SABS 241 but hopefully the rest of the above info helps someone else out.

SABS 241-1971 requirements for domestic purposes, including potable water:
(Source: As cited in Environmental Engineering in South African Mines, pp 898ff. Mine Ventilation Society, 1982)

[tr][td]Characteristic[/td][td] [/td][td]Recommended Limit[/td][td] [/td][td]Maximum Allowable Limit[/td][/tr]
Turbidity (turbidity units)
Colour (Hazen units)
Taste and Odour[/td][td] [/td]

Not objectionable[/td][td] [/td]
Not specified
Not objectionable[/td][/tr]
Contents in milligrams/litre (mg/l)
Anionic surfactants (as Manoxol OT)
Chloride (as Cl)
Copper (as Cu)
Iron (as Fe)
Magnesium (as Mg)
Manganese (as Mn)
Phenolic compounds (as phenol)
Sulphate (as SO4)
Dissolved solids
Zinc (as Zn)
Total hardness (as CaCO3)
Toxic substances (mg/l)
Arsenic (as As)
Cadmium (as Cd)
Cyanide (as CN)
Fluoride (as F)
Hexavalent chromium (as Cr)
Lead (as Pb)
Nitrates (as N)[/td][td] [/td]




10.0[/td][td] [/td]


Not specified


Not specified[/td][/tr]
Coliform organisms (as No./100 ml)
E. Coli (No./100 ml)
Total viable organisms (colonies/ml)[/td][td] [/td]
100.0[/td][td] [/td]
Not specified[/td][/tr]

(*[i]If any coliform organisms are found in a sample, a second sample shall be taken immediately and shall be free of coliform organisms AND not more than 5% of the total number of water samples per year may contain coliform organisms.

For details on the frequency of sampling, sampling procedures and analytical methods, reference should be made to SABS 241-1971.[/i])

For what it’s worth, Dr 'Luthon64, who provided the above, adds that there’s good reason to believe that the above standards of water quality are directly derived from the British Standards, and also that they have not changed despite being more than 30 years old. Unfortunately, we were not able to locate a reference for this.


OK, just want to say thanks to everyone that helped regarding this water purification sales scam.

A work colleague just pointed me to the following site this morning that explains the con of the
precipitator test quite nicely,


The comment about dealing with the salesman by sitting back and grabbing some popcorn is quite apt, so long as the popcorn is salted
just proceed to drop some salt in the RO water and watch the results :).

Now if I could only deal with the “its natural so its good for you claims” and my new pet peeve, “organic vs inorganic minerals”
Id be a much happier person.

I know this suggestion is quite late but you could throw the pseudoscience back at the marketer. Hopefully someone who meets one of these people in the future would find this idea useful. It is unlikely that the marketer would have heard of the Dihydrogen monoxide hoax.

What’s great about this is that you have a few scientific (yet alarming) words for H2O (Dihydrogen monoxide, Hydroxic acid, Hydronium hydroxide, Hydroxyl acid, Hydrohydroxic acid, μ-Oxido hydrogen) that you can use to scare the audience and make the water filtration system appear more dangerous using exactly the same false techniques as the marketer uses.

This is how I might go about this (I will use “Hydroxic acid” but you can substitute any of the other names into the script below, be consistent and use only one name throughout) - I have adapted the original script from the hoax.

Does your reverse-osmosis system remove Hydroxic acid?

Not sure? Scientists have confirmed that most water filtration systems are ineffective at removing this chemical.

Well, it has been stated since the early nineteen-nineties that the presence of this substance is alarmingly high in all urban water systems and has even been found at the bottom of deep desert water wells. Our modern technology is finding it in more and more traditionally pristine, untouched environments.

Hydroxic acid:

  • is the major component of acid rain.
  • has been involved with the increasing cases of severe skin burns in babies when parents innocently bath their children.
  • accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
  • has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.
  • has an accelerating effect on the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
  • is readily absorbed on the cellular level and is not released until the cell dies.

Despite the danger, hydroxic acid is often used:

  • as an industrial solvent and coolant.
  • in nuclear power plants.
  • in the production of styrofoam.
  • as a fire retardant.
  • in many forms of cruel animal research.
  • in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing produce, the chemical remains present in the produce.
  • as an additive in certain “junk-foods” and other food products.

Should we be drinking this chemical? Is your company worried about this chemical?

Yes? You will remove hydroxic acid from the water system? You say your device will remove everything which isn’t supposed to be there?

But hydroxic acid is water, H2O.

But maybe that is a bad idea, the marketers could incorporate the idea into their own script and bamboozle other victims with these terms.