Category Archives: Serious Stuff

Test It, Not Taste It!

ratdrinkDuring the recent Christmas season, I was amazed to see how many different types of “water” are available on store shelves.  At the grocery stores there was an endless array of “Life”, “Vitamin”, “Energy”, “Ice”  and even some bizarre “Black” water on the shelves. It was not just the grocery stores but Staples was getting in on the action with a large selection of bottled waters and even appliances to make “seltzers” or carbonated water.

However it was the seltzer maker that caught my attention.  Years ago I had thought about distributing this very product but as much of the flavourings contained sucralose or Splenda®.  It was not something that I could ethically sell.

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that was accidently discovered in 1976 by researchers Leslie Hough and Shashikant Phadnis while doing research into insecticides. Phadnis, a graduate researcher, misheard a telephone call requesting samples for testing. As the call came from a large sugar company it is understandable that Phadnis thought that the company had requested them for tasting and so he tried them himself…………..

Sucralose is a fascinating chemical as it provides a clear insight into the difference between “natural” and “artificial”.  What’s in a name?  “Sucralose” is a name meant to confuse the consumer with Sucrose or common table sugar.  I noticed that the aforementioned seltzer/soda maker no longer advertises that it uses Splenda® as an ingredient but now lists “Sucralose”.  Ditto for many of the “Life, Energy, Vitamin” waters. First class obscurantism.

Ever wonder what chemical engineers and researchers do?  Well if you are like Hough and Phadnis you figure out how to exchange sugar’s CH2OH  with chlorine atoms (Cl) to create chlorinated sugar.  See the images below.

Sucrose - Common Table Sugar

C12H22O11 – Sucrose – Common Table Sugar

Sucralose - Artificial Sweetener (Splenda®)

C12H19Cl3O8 – Sucralose – Artificial Sweetener (Splenda®)

It is amazing that such a simple change creates an artificial, patentable, calorie free product worth hundreds of millions of dollars!!!

Like the “Green” or “Eco” market which has been heavily co-opted by “Green Washing” so too is the health market. Even, water, one of the most natural  elements on the planet is being manipulated into artificial, unhealthy products with dubious benefits.

If you’re not drinking H2O, you’re not drinking water……

Further Reading;

The 5 Best, and 5 Worst, Sweeteners to Have in Your Kitchen“, Rodale News
Black(water) Market: Digging Up the Dirt about Slick Designer Beverages“, Skeptical Inquirer
The Search for Sweet“, The New Yorker
The Shape of Sweeteners to come“, The New Scientist

Wikipedia – A Guide to Horrors

Every now and then we have a customer who asks pointed questions about the performance of Seagull IV and First Need XL water purifiers.  We generally send them in the direction of our Product Data Sheet to see the list of chemicals that the Seagull IV water purifiers can remove.

Recently while helping a customer, I realized that the Product Data Sheet assumes that the customer is sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to understand and interpret the data but in this instance the data just added to the confusion that the customer had.

To simplify, I sorted the chemicals into a couple of categories; commonly found in municipal water supply, herbicide, pesticides, solvents and organic compounds. To do this I used Wikipedia.

I realized that I having been using the stock and trade answer of “removes chemicals, herbicides, pesticides…..” without giving it much thought.  The Wikipedia entries for these chemicals jolted my consciousness back to a time when these chemicals had names.  Fearful names.

Rachel Carson’s 1962 landmark book “Silent Spring” not only rallied people to fight the use of DDT but became the rallying call for environmental activism and consciousness. By the seventies; Asbestos, Dixons, DDT, PCB, Mercury and Lead had all become household words. The Love Canal  and the Grassy Narrows fiascoes were nightly news.  Mom, Dad and I would watch these newscasts and wonder what was under our house, what was Dad breathing in at work, what was in our water…

As I read the Wikipedia entries for the chemicals listed in the Seagull IV Product Data Sheet I realized that I had the table of contents for a new book, “Wikipedia –  A Guide to Horrors”.  Read it if you dare……….

Wikipedia – A Guide to Horrors
in Municipal Water Supplies
Notes Wikipedia Reference
Trihalomethane (THMs) Chlorination byproduct
2,4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid),4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic_acid
2,4,5-TP (Silvex, Fenoprop) Banned in USA, 1985
Methoxychlor Banned in USA, 2003
Chlordane Banned in USA, 1988
Aldicarb (Temik)
1,2-Dibromomethane (EDB),2-Dibromoethane
1,1 Dichloroethane,1-Dichloroethane
Diisopropyl ether
Tetrachlorethylene (PCE)
Trichloroethylene (TCE)
Organic Compounds
Carbon Tetrachloride Chlorination byproduct
Chloroform Chlorination byproduct
Hexachlorobenzene Banned in USA, 1966
PCB Banned in USA, 1979