New Delhi, Feb. 12 : The government today announced steps to fix maximum limits of 32 pesticide residues in bottled water, but leading pesticide experts warned that it would be “unrealistic to fix the same limit for all pesticides”.
Government officials said the new rules will fix the maximum limit of any individual pesticide at 0.1 micromilligram per litre and the total pesticide residue in any sample should not exceed 0.5 micromilligram per litre.
“An identical limit for all pesticides is ridiculous and won’t work,” said a leading food and pesticide expert. “It is unrealistic because the degree of toxicity varies from one pesticide to another,” he told The Telegraph.
For instance, he said, the pesticide called monochrotophos is far more toxic and can kill pests in far lower concentrations than a pesticide like DDT.
The 32 pesticides that will be covered by the new rules include DDT, malathion, parathion, and BHC. Officials here said the standards are yet to be notified. The Bureau of Indian Standards will have to publish the new standards to be followed by packaged water companies.
A study by the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi released last week had revealed unacceptably high levels of several toxic pesticides in virtually all leading brands of packaged drinking water.
The CSE had accused the BIS of setting ambiguous standards for pesticide residues without specifying numerical limits. The old rules had said pesticide residues should be “below detectable limits”.
The new rules will also make it mandatory for bottling companies to use internationally established methods of testing pesticide residues to conform to the new maximum limits.
The new limits will also apply to monocrotophos, ethion, dichlorvos, propoxur, diazinon, chlorpyrifos, fenthion, phosphomidon, endosulfan and cypermethrin, deltamethrin, fenavalerate, permethrin, atrazine, simazine, captafol, acephate, dithiocarbamate, metalaxyl, fosetylal and lindane.
Last week, the government had announced an inquiry into the claims that the flawed testing norms set by the BIS were facilitating the sale of bottled drinking water containing pesticide residues. A panel set up by the government was asked to “affix responsibility and suggest remedial measures”.
Packaged drinking water companies had claimed that their products had always fully conformed to BIS standards and that independent laboratories had certified them as safe. The companies said they get their products routinely tested and pesticides have never been detected in their samples.
The CSE had accused the BIS of prescribing testing techniques not sensitive enough to detect pesticide levels even when they are present in water samples.
The inquiry panel was expected to visit independent certified laboratories and examine the infrastructure and techniques used there. It will also compare the existing BIS standards with international standards for packaged drinking water.