Coordinated by Milton Matta, a geologist at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA), in a partnership with the University Medical Center, a study is investigating the possible relationship between the water that Amazon region residents drink, especially in the state of Pará, and the incidence of chronic diseases, such as gastric disorders and cancers of the stomach and digestive tract.
Matta’s research has also raised questions about the quality of mineral water in the region.
According to the scientist, the natural acidity of waters in the Amazon, verified in studies by the Laboratory of Water Resources and Environment at UFPA, may be the reason for many health problems in the region.
“As determined by current legislation, safe drinking water is supposed to have a level of acidity, the pH measurement, between 7 and 9. Water in the Amazon has a pH of 4, which puts it, so to speak, outside the law. And the pH 4 level is found not only in tap water, but in Amazon region mineral water, as well,” explains Matta (during his research project he measured the pH of four mineral water brands that come from the state of Pará).
Legislation on the quality of mineral water is regulated in Brazil by the National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM) and the superintendent of the department in Belém, capital of the state of Pará, Every Aquino, disagrees with Matta’s conclusions.
He says there are no health problems due to the water people drink in the Amazon region. And then he slightly sidetracks the discussion on health to one on mineral water quality and labeling.
“There is some confusion regarding the analysis of the mineral water produced in our area. The samples in this report came directly from the source (spring) and were not treated, there was no addition of mineral salts, nothing. Our water is examined and classified by qualified professionals,” says the superintendent, adding that laboratories in Brazilian capital Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro do the testing.
Aquino points out that the old Water Code of 1945 required mineral water to have “medicinal properties,” but that was modified by more recent legislation, Resolution 274 of 2005, by the Brazilian equivalent of the Center for Disease Control (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária – Anvisa). The new rules are that the presence of mineral salts is sufficient for water to be classified as mineral water.
Meanwhile, government attorneys say they will file a lawsuit calling for changes in the labeling of mineral water in Pará because some of it is just bottled tap water.