Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Water Treatment Devices
Source: Florida Attorney General's Office


Fears about the purity of our water have increased dramatically in recent years, leading consumers to worry about the safety of their drinking water. News reports of leaking landfills, corroding lead pipes and deterioration of gasoline storage tanks have painted a gloomy picture of toxic wastes, pesticides and other chemicals seeping into both well and municipal water supplies. Although some contaminants have been found in some water supplies, most households using water from public sources should have few concerns. Predictably, some unscrupulous salespeople prey upon concerned consumers by using scare tactics and fraudulent practices to sell their water treatment devices.

Avoid "Free" home water tests
Fraudulent sellers that advertise "free home water testing" may only be interested in selling you their water treatment device, whether you need it, or not. In performing the test, the salesperson may add tablets or droplets of chemicals to your tap water, explaining that the water will change color or that particles will form if the water is contaminated. When the water changes color before your eyes, the salesperson may warn you that the water is polluted and may cause cancer. In almost all of these cases, any water (even spring water) would "fail" the company's test.

Don't be pressured by prize promotion offers
Sellers will sometimes try to sell their water treatment devices by notifying you by mail or by telephone that you have been selected to win an expensive prize. To qualify for the prize, you are required to buy a water treatment device, costing hundreds of dollars. You may later discover that both the prize and the water treatment device are of little value.

Be wary of claims of government approval
Sellers will sometimes claim that certain governmental agencies require or recommend that households use water purification systems, or that the government has approved the seller's particular method of in-home water testing. These claims are false. If you see an EPA registration number on a water-treatment product label, it means only that the manufacturer has registered its product with the Environmental Protection Agency, but not that the EPA has tested or approved the product.

Determine the quality of your water independently
Ask your municipal water superintendent for the latest test results of your public water supply and then compare them to state and federal standards available from Florida's Department of Environmental Protection or the Federal EPA. If you use well water, ask your local health department if it offers free water testing.

You may additionally have your water tested by a state-certified private laboratory. A list of state-certified laboratories is available by calling the State Laboratory Certification Office  at (904)791-1599. Tests for bacteria usually range from $15 to $45, while tests for chemical contamination can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Decide what you need.

United States Environmental Protection Agency
To obtain information about the EPA's drinking water regulations and general information about drinking water, you may contact the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or http://www.epa.gov/safewater/

If you have established that your water contains contaminants, the next step is to determine what type of system you need to treat the water. A wide variety of water treatment devices are available, which range from relatively simple, low-cost filter devices for faucets, to sophisticated and expensive systems that treat water from its point of entry into your home. No water treatment device can solve every problem. Some systems only soften water by removing calcium and magnesium, while others eliminate virtually all minerals and foreign matter present in the water. Ask your testing firm or your local government officials what type of water treatment or purification system will best suit your needs.