Children and Drinking Water Standards

Children and Drinking Water Standards

My friend called me up one day and asked is it possible to ensure purity/ quality of drinking water. I said “very much”. Then he wanted me to test one of the commercially available “packaged drinking water”. Though purified  water, he wants to be sure about the quality of water he buys. I was curious why he sounds so desperate about the water quality all of a sudden?? He said that his 18 months old daughter has suffered from diarrhea and heavily dehydrated. She was hospitalized almost for a week by then. I was worried, felt sorry for him and suggested few methods to treat the water and explained about the required drinking water quality especially for his kid. That incident made me to explore into the area “Children and Drinking Water Standards”. I thought it may help other parents too if they know what to look for in “DRINKING WATER FOR THEIR KIDS”. Thanks Thangaraj Velumani you made me to write this!

As we all know, water easily gets contaminated if not treated, stored or handled properly. Most of the educated parents take enough
precautions before feeding water to infants. We have got a very limited data available to indicate whether children are more sensitive than the general public when it comes to drinking water contamination. Many organisations around the world and especially USEPA is undertaking research to address this important issue.

However, Children, especially infants, drink more fluid per kg of body weight than adults. Children’s immune systems are not fully developed, making them less able to fight microbes in drinking water compared to adults. These microbes may induce diarrhea, vomiting
which results in dehydration. They are also more susceptible to chemical contaminants that affects their skills like learning and also
affects sex hormones during important stages of growth.

Are you among the one who says ” I give only boiled water or packaged water or bottled water or water from expensive water purifier at home??? Then you must read on…

Every method mentioned above are good as well as bad. It depends on many factors. Let me explain that in detail.

Condition 1:

Let’s say you provide boiled water to your child. If the water is ground water, few minerals like nitrate, nitrite, fluoride, arsenic etc should be monitored and kept in control all the time. If your water has more nitrate/nitrite values against prescribed value (MCLG), your “KID MAY BE AT RISK”. If you are living close to any agricultural field or soild waste dumping yard, nitrates from fertilizers, sewage may get dissolved in your drinking water. When this water is boiled, deadly bacteria, virus, protozoa etc gets eliminated. But the chemical contaminants like nitrates gets concentrated in the water. When this water is consumed by infants and if it is sick already, the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood reduces and hence baby get poisoned. This condition is called “Blue Baby Syndrome”. Though the nitrate may come from foods like spinach and broccoli, parents could restrict those in the diet.

Condition 2:

Let’s say your water at source is safe. If your plumbing system uses copper or other metal pipes, contaminant may enter your drinking
water system either from the plumbing materials or from lead (lead is used to solder pipe connections). Though, PVC pipes are very
common in India, many western countries uses copper pipes in their plumbing system. So, this is mainly a concern for people in western
countries. ( They have faucets which carries both hot and cold water). This contamination due to copper and lead usually happens in the hot water pipe. People in U.S usually leaves out a glass of hot water from the kitchen faucet and drink the second glass. The
reason is the first glass of water may contain lead and copper contamination. Country like India, where one has no idea about the
plastic material that are used for the plumbing system, problems associated with this are yet to be identified.

Condition 3:

Let’s say you own a expensive counter top water purifier. You have every reason to rejoice that you/your family have access to safe
water. But, WELL..NOT ALL THE TIME. I am not trying to scare you. As long as the system runs correctly, it will take care your water.
If any part of your system fails, for eg. say the R.O membrane gets damaged for some reason. You cannot identify it because it is
concealed in a container and many times there may not be visual symptoms. If that happens, microbes will not be filtered and gets into
your drinking water. You may not notice any difference because these microbes does not add any unpleasant taste to the water. It is
only after your post carbon filter gets exhausted, one may notice a change in the taste of water. Usually that is when people call the
service personnel to repair it. Till that time, your baby continue to drink water that are loaded with disease causing micro organisms.
In a way, it is worse than drinking water directly without any treatment. Unless you have a robust monitoring and maintenance, your filter will do more harm than good.

Condition 4:

No matter how bad is the quality of your water (micro-biologically), addition of chlorine makes that water safe for drinking. (actually
it is the residual chlorine that does the disinfection). That is the reason, still all the public water supply systems run by government uses chlorine as disinfectant. This protects the water from further contamination and ensures that water remains safe till it reaches the tail end of the distribution network. Lets say there are no further contamination in the distribution network. Even then, the value of the residual chlorine could do harm if present in higher values. (Usually residual chlorine will be higher in places near to treatment plant). This residual chlorine when reacts with other minerals in water and forms trihalomethanes, (THM’s), chloramines etc. This may lead to reproductive and development related problems for your children at a very early stage.

Friends, Water is a very serious issue. Recent news/studies shows that the quality of water is alarmingly at a danger level. Remember,
there are no “apps” for water. We all spend too much of money for drinking water. Make sure you get the right product/quality and safe
water for your money.


Photo Credits : Sujatha Kamala


Premkumar Pitchamuthu
Master Water Specialist
Clair Water Consultancy