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General Water Quality Information

Water Scams

What is pseudoscience and how is it related to drinking water scams?

The word pseudo means fake so pseudoscience means fake science. A pseudoscience is some body of knowledge, which has no scientific validity or has been proven false, but still masquerades as real science, often in an attempt to claim legitimacy. It is often associated with commercial quackery that is nothing more than a professional scam to defraud people of their hard-earned money. There are many scams associated with special forms of water and water treatment devices that are based on pseudoscience. Most people cannot tell the difference in real science and pseudoscience and this makes them susceptible to scams. A good source for additional information on pseudoscience is the Stout Science Program for Educators (http://www3.uwstout.edu/faculty/scotta/upload/Stout-Science.pdf).

What is the invisible chemicals scam?

A favorite ploy of scam artists is to convince consumers to purchase expensive water treatment units, which they really do not need, to remove invisible contaminants they cannot see. The scam usually involves tricking a consumer to believe his/her water contains chemicals that cannot be seen by making them visible by addition of some form of pill or electrodes the sales rep introduces to a sample of your water as you watch. Of course, these chemicals can be removed quite easily by the, usually somewhat expensive, water treatment device the salesperson is promoting. There is also a good chance that the company represented by this scam artist has a special price if you purchase right now. A common scam is the formation of ferric hydroxide in a water sample through introduction of a testing pill or by electrolysis that can actually put iron into your water when an electrode containing iron is placed in a water sample and connected to a simple 9-volt D.C. battery. The iron will react with hydroxide ions in solution to form an ugly precipitate of ferric hydroxide. This is also called the ferric hydroxide scam.

What is the purpose of a drinking water or water treatment scam?

The purpose of any scam is to use misleading information, false information, or even outright lies and trickery to separate a person from their hard-earned money. Drinking water and water treatment scams are no different. These scams simply deal with some aspect of drinking water. Most scams are fraud and fraud is a crime but this does not stop people from doing it.

What was a typical selling price for some of the bottled radium-containing water solutions that were promoted for health benefits in the late 1920s?

According to some reports, one of the more popular radon drinks of this time was manufactured by a Dr. William Bailey and called Radithor. This toxic potion sold for $1.00 per bottle. This was a steep price to pay for something that was supposed to have health benefits but was actually going to kill you if you drank enough.

Where can a consumer learn more about scams and fraud?

Two of the better federal sources for consumer information on fraud are the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) in Pueblo, Colorado (http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov) and the U.S. Federal Government site for consumers (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm). Both sites have links to other federal web sites that can provide additional information to consumers. Since the Internet has become a favorite frontier for deceptive marketing, there are also a number of commercial and organization sites about fraud and scams. These include: 1) National Consumers League Fraud Center (http://www.fraud.org/), 2) Consumer Fraud Reporting and Consumer Protection Information (http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/), 3) Fraud Victim Advocacy (http://www.fraudaid.com/) and 4) Consumer Cross-border Complaints (http://www.econsumer.gov/).

Where can I obtain nonbiased information about bottled water?

For nonbiased information on bottled water, which is regulated as a food product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), go to the FDA web address (http://www.fda.gov/) and search the site for bottle water. For information on the federal regulations that apply to various types of bottled water as characterized by FDA, go to the FDA web address for Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/botwatr.html).

Where do you file false claims about health products, false labeling of bottled water or fraudulent promotion of water treatment products?

False health claims should be reported to local offices of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These FDA offices are usually listed in the blue (government) pages of your phone directory. If you have access to the Internet, you can file a claim online at http://www.fda.gov/medwatch. It is a crime to send fraudulent materials through United States mail. If you receive such materials in the mail you can file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspectors Office at http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/MailFraudComplaint.htm. Although the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not resolve individual consumer problems related to fraud, consumers are encouraged to file complaints against companies making false advertising claims on the Internet or elsewhere at http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel/index.html. The Consumer Sentinel is a secure online database that is provided to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide. It has a major impact on reducing consumer fraud.

Where is the largest bottle water operation in North America?

According to industry sources, the location of the largest bottled-water factory in North America as of 2007 is on the outskirts of Hollis, Maine. This is the bottling headquarters for Poland Spring water. In 2007 Poland Spring was owned by Nestle, the top selling bottled water in the United States.

Who is susceptible to drinking water scams?

Everyone is susceptible to being scammed in some form or fashion regardless of age, sex, religion, or even education level and professional background. Many of those who pull scams are experts at what they do and unsuspecting consumers are their prey. Consumers who lack a basic understanding of scientific principles are more susceptible to certain types of scams.

Why are people still susceptible to quack water healing products like homeopathy today with all the records of past scams and idiocy like radon water?

Apparently many people today are no smarter than those who ate radium products or consumed radon water during the early part of the nineteenth century. Homeopathy is a huge industry today and it is ever bit as nutty as the radium therapy and radon water promotions of over 80 years ago. Once people suspend their critical thinking skills and go for hope over reality, the sky is the limit in silly and dangerous medicine. However, doctors who rely on science-based medicine still use the placebo response to help heal many of their patients.

Why are people susceptible to water and water treatment scams?

For the same reason that people in general, regardless of their background, training, etc., are susceptible to many types of scams. Many persons tend to believe in mystical and magical things and are always hopeful of miracles. Psychologists say the human brain and nervous system are designed primarily for survival, not to assure truth, logic and reason. Great strides in universal science education have not defeated irrational thinking and superstition. Even with greater literacy within our modern societies, a high percentage of people still believe in telepathy, astrology, UFOs and a wide array of paranormal and supernatural phenomenon. A simple sugar pill can cure the chronic ills of approximately 40 percent of the human population today. This is referred to as the placebo effect.

Why did people in the U.S. and other countries think it was safe to drink radon rich water during the 1920s to 1930s?

In the late 1800s and early 1900s people frequented a number of hot springs for invigorating baths that they claimed improved their health. When radium and radiation were later found in many of these hot springs, people believed that radiation was good for you. Even the most reasonable people simply did not realize the hazard of exposure to radiation at this time. Like electricity, radiation from radium was invisible but could be harnessed from nature, so how could it be bad. Radium was discovered in 1898, isolated by 1911, and touted to have numerous medical applications by 1915. The public had little concern for drinking radon water from these springs until an American millionaire named Eben M. Beyers died from radiation poisoning in 1932. He had consumed over 1000 bottles of radon water. Even his breath was radioactive before he died and the case received so much notoriety that his radioactive skeleton was exhumed in 1965 for further study.

Why did radium crocks and radium water coolers become more popular than bottled radon water during the 1920s?

Bottled radon water became a scam but for reasons you might not suspect. After scientists revealed that the half-life of radon was just 3.82 days, everyone knew that bottled radon water lost much of its radiation in a short period of time. Therefore, you could not get that healthy glow from drinking bottled radon water that was over four days old. This meant bottled radon water was a rip-off and its producers were making fraudulent claims when they said it emitted high levels of radiation that did not exist. Visionary companies shifted to marketing more scientific products like radium-lined water coolers or crocks that contained a radium source inside. Storing any water in these containers overnight would give you fresh, potent, invigorating radon water to drink by morning. Unfortunately for those who used these devices, they worked very well.

Why does the U.S. Federal Trade Comission (FTC) allow numerous fraud products promoted as beneficial drinking water treatment devices to be marketed and sold in the United States when they are nothing but scams based on pseudoscience, quackery and pure nonsense?

Because of the lack of time and resources it would take to completely stop the marketing of such products. Like most regulatory agencies, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has limited resources and therefore does not have the facilities, expertise or time to independently deal with all the cases of consumer fraud associated with such products. The FTC deals with the most significant cases of consumer fraud on a regular basis and it has a convenient website where consumers may file a complaint if they feel that they have been scammed. However, the FTC cannot deal with many scam products because they are not sold directly to consumers by the manufacturers who often maintain a very low profile. Such products are generally sold by use of marketing schemes involving independent agents dispensing outlandish misinformation through paid testimonials from individuals claiming all sorts of health or other benefits from use of these products. Of course, such claims have no scientific validity. The FTC website for reporting consumer fraud is http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.

Why were some people still susceptible to radioactive quack cures for 30 years after radium water (water containing radon) was found to be harmful?

Human pain and suffering has always fostered a market for remedies and preventatives for thousands of years that have no proven benefit. Healing is partially psychological, so quacks and profiteers have always been quick to pick up on the latest discoveries and promote them to the desperate-for-a-cure market, regardless of how remote the connection between the discovery and any likely health benefits might be. As long as people are willing to pay for cures that do not work, there will always be charlatans who will provide them, usually for a hefty fee.

Will marketing in fresh water become the oil of the 21st century?

Possibly. Fortune Magazine predicted that this could be the case with large corporations rushing to invest in the new get-rich economy of water. What has already happened in the bottled water industry may be a good indication. The market value of bottled water reached an estimated worldwide value of about $86.4 billion by 2010. In 2005, some predictions were that bottled water's market value would almost double to about $100 billion by 2010, but growth rate slacked off somewhat after negative environmental publicity increased in 2007.

Will water that is supposedly altered in its chemical structure to form what is referred to as clustered water make you feel better, younger or more energetic when you drink it?

Not based on any scientific principle, but it could for some people since psychological studies reveal that placebos can relieve various symptoms in about 40 percent of those who suffer from a variety of chronic ailments. If you believe in magic or alternative types of medicine, then you are more likely to find benefits from drinking what is called clustered water. NOTE: In the realm of science however, the promotion of clustered water for any medical or other health benefits is nothing but a scam.

With water utilities spending millions of dollars to deliver clean, safe and very affordable drinking water right to our kitchen sinks, why are American citizens buying more and more bottled water that is no cleaner, safer or healthier than tap water, costs hundreds or thousands of times more than tap water, uses lots of energy to produce and transport, and ultimately becomes a municipal waste problem?

There is no clear and concise answer to this question, but one of the primary reasons that bottled water has become so popular is simply the fact that many people in modern societies are willing to believe that bottled water is better and safer to drink than tap water, even though it is not. Of course bottled water is not all bad. In countries where drinking water infrastructure is not up to standard, yet, then of course the bottled variety should be preferred. And in terms of delivering aid in emergency situations, bottles of water can mean the difference between life and death. In these situations, the ability to deliver clean, bottled water quickly should be seen as a blessing, not a curse. However, it is more like madness when people pay on the average of 130 times the value for a product that is no better than what is delivered to their own kitchen faucet simply because some celebrity is shamelessly endorsing a particular brand for a handsome fee. Unfortunately, this shows how bottled water has become another symbol of how we have become a throwaway, fashionable and consumer wasteful society.