Saturday, August 18, 2012

Contaminated Drinking Water in Egypt

One of the first things that I always tell people when they arrive in Egypt is "don't drink the tap water." If you do, make sure you have a stock of immodium or stomach tablets. The tummy bugs are so notorious that it has a few names, "The Pharaoh's Curse," and "The Cairo Curse," to name a few.

In Hurghada we're a tad bit luckier than in Cairo - where once I actually saw little beasties floating in my water. As a great deal of the water in Hurghada is de-salinated, or straight off the water trucks, you'd imagine that it would at least be safer to drink than the water in Cairo, right? Unfortunately, based my own research this is not true. As Hurghada's pipe systems are rather old, most of the pipes are lead-based. This then catches in the water, so you will be drinking lead. Negative affects of lead consumption are wide and varied. The misnomer that you can simply 'boil' the water to make it safe doesn't work with lead. With it being a metal, boiling the water simply pushes the lead to the base and ends up leaving a higher concentration once water has evaporated.

So the solution is simple, bottled water all the way. For cooking and drinking, big bottles of water are found in virtually every house. There's just an assumption that they are safe to drink, after all, the advertise themselves as safe drinking water.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian Health Ministry officially closed seven mineral water companies. Yes, you read that correctly, 7 companies have been closed. (And we all know what the levels of health and sanitation here are..just go into your local restaurant's kitchen and take a gander, so for the Health Ministry to actually shut down the water companies is a big deal).

I know when reading this I had to go and check what bottled water we have, and unfortunately it is on the list of contaminated companies. According to the Egypt Independent, the contaminants include water pollutants and live protozoa. The definition of a protozoa, taken from Niles Biological, is "Protozoa (in Greek proto = first and zoa = animal) are single-celled eukaryotes (organisms whose cells have nuclei) that show some characteristics usually associated with animals, most notably mobility and heterotrophy."

Although most protozoa are harmless and some are even positive inhabitants in our body, the protozoa in the water are more commonly known as amoebas. It can cause dysentery, gas, cramping, and overall discomfort. End all and be all, it's not something you want in your system.

So the companies that you need to avoid for the time being are: Alpha, Hadir, Seway, Aqua Delta, Tiba, Aqua Mina and Aqua Soteir. 

Tiba and Hadir are very common to see in Hurghada. So do yourself a favour, and make sure you're avoiding purchasing water from these companies. 

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