Drinking water and health: Treatment

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About drinking water treatment devices

You may buy drinking water treatment devices if you want to treat:

You may use these devices to:

When you need a drinking water treatment device

Your need for a treatment device depends on your individual situation.

In general, your drinking water doesn't usually need more treatment for health-related reasons if you get it from a community water system that meets the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. Contact your local water supplier or municipality for specific information on the quality of the water in your community.

You should have your drinking water tested regularly if you use an individual water supply such as a:

Your local public health services can advise you on which contaminants (microbial or chemical) to test for. If your drinking water doesn't meet with the Canadian guidelines, you would need to take appropriate corrective measures such as:

In such cases, you should consult a qualified water treatment specialist for proper advice.

Be Well Aware: Information for private well owners

Buying a drinking water treatment device

We don't recommend specific brands of drinking water treatment devices.

However, we strongly recommend that you buy a treatment device that's certified as meeting the applicable NSF/ANSI performance standard. Currently, there are 6 NSF/ANSI performance standards for drinking water treatment devices:

When a device is certified as meeting 1 of these standards, it means the:

To figure out if a device has been certified, for outdoor recreational use, look for:

The Standards Council of Canada has accredited these certification bodies to certify devices against these standards:

Manufacturers may also make claims about their devices that fall "outside" the standards. We recommend you review all packaging and promotional literature to identify which performance claims the certification body has verified.

Most treatment technologies are covered by 1 or more of these standards. However, some types are not. For example, there are no health-based performance standards in place for ozonators or microbial purifiers.

Finally, you should carefully follow the maintenance instructions included with the device to ensure it continues to work well.

How to remove or destroy microbes in drinking water

There are 3 types of microorganisms (microbes) that can be found in water:

Drinking water that complies with the Canadian guidelines is considered safe from microbes. However, you may consider using a treatment device:

Other options to ensure your drinking water is safe from microbes include:

We recommend that you seek advice from a water treatment specialist before selecting a treatment device for this purpose. Some types of treatment devices can't have their microbial reduction claims certified because no health-based performance standards exist for them yet. We are working with academic and industry representatives to develop standards to verify microbial reduction claims.

NSF/ANSI standard 53 certified devices for parasitic cyst reduction

Several treatment devices on the market have been certified as meeting NSF/ANSI standard 53 for parasitic cyst reduction. You can use these devices safely where drinking water is contaminated with:

These devices won't remove viruses or bacteria from water.

NSF/ANSI standard 55 certified devices for bacterial disinfection

NSF/ANSI standard 55 separates UV systems into 2 classes for determining their disinfection performance:

NSF/ANSI standard 62 certified devices for microbial reduction

Distillation systems can have their microbial reduction claims certified against NSF/ANSI standard 62.

Reverse osmosis systems and dietary mineral supplements

Reverse osmosis systems remove minerals like calcium and magnesium from drinking water. In Canada, water is a minor source of such minerals when compared to foods.

If you eat a reasonably balanced diet, you don't need to take a mineral supplement when drinking water treated with a reverse osmosis system. Low levels of minerals in drinking water may only be concern for people living in countries with very hot climates.

Removing sulphur smells

The smell of sulphur doesn't indicate a health hazard. Rather, the smell is considered an aesthetic inconvenience.

Technologies, such as greensand filters, are available to remove sulphur odour. These filters are designed primarily to remove iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide from water. Contact a qualified water treatment specialist to discuss your options.

Regulations for drinking water treatment devices

The Consumer Product Safety Act applies to drinking water treatment devices. Products that are a 'danger to human health or safety' are subject to recall. However, there aren't any regulations specific to these devices under this Act.

The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Competition Act, administered by Industry Canada, prohibit false or misleading claims about drinking water treatment devices.

The Medical Devices Regulations of the Food and Drugs Act regulate drinking water treatment devices that carry medical claims.

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