Expert debunks videos claiming there's lead in bottled water being distributed in Flint

Expert debunks videos claiming there's lead in bottled water being distributed in Flint

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MUNDY TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - Water experts are debunking videos on social media that claim the bottled water being handed out in Flint contains lead.

"It's highly unlikely that you'll find any lead in any bottled water," said Greg Cornell, general manger of Culligan of Flint in Mundy Township. "Especially if the water is certified by the IBWA - the International Bottled Water Association."

Cornell said many of the videos online show people using TDS meters, which stands for Total Dissolved Solids.

"What people are measuring are the total dissolved solids in the water, which could be anything dissolved in the water, whether it be a salt, a metal, even a sugar," Cornell said.

Cornell and the Water Quality Association said TDS meters cannot measure lead specifically.

The association writes, "They detect the conductivity directly related to the concentration of combined total dissolved solids such as minerals, salts and metals."

"TDS meters measure in what's called "parts per million", and lead is typically measured in parts per billion, which is 1,000 times smaller," Cornell said. "So you'd have to have 1,000 parts per billion of lead for it to show up as one part per million on your TDS meter."

State Police commented on the lead in bottled water claim last month.

"We took the 21 different varieties of water we have in our warehouses. Each one of those brands were tested. They conducted tests on each and every one, and they found out that the results were no lead detected," said Lt. David Kaiser, with Michigan State Police.

The Water Quality Association said the typical sample of tap water in the U.S. registers at 350 parts per million when it comes to total dissolved solids.

Cornell did a TDS test on a cup of purified Culligan water poured from a jug.

"We've got six parts per million of total dissolved solids and that comes mainly because there are pharmaceutical grade minerals added back to the water - in most cases just to give it some better flavoring," Cornell said.

He said TDS meters are typically used to determine the efficiency of devices like reverse osmosis systems and water softeners.

Cornell said testing for lead is something best done in a certified laboratory.

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