Thu, Apr 09, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Institute develops kit for easy testing of water quality

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Worried about the water quality at home or at work, but think that having the water tested is troublesome? With a new and simplified water testing kit, people may soon be able to easily gauge how safe their water is, the Fisheries Research Institute said yesterday.

“The problem with elevated total viable bacteria count [TVBC] in water can cause an array of health problems for people,” said Chang Jin-yi (張錦宜), an assistant researcher at the institute.

Chang said there were frequent news reports of swimming pools or shaved ice parlors — including well-known and popular ones — getting fined by health authorities for having overly high TVBC in the water they use.

SICK

There have also been reports of large numbers of schoolchildren or community residents being rushed to the emergency room after getting sick from drinking water at school or public areas, he said.

The institute, which normally deals with TVBC in fish farms, recently developed a kit that can be used in any type of domestic or commercial water, Chang said.

Once the technology is commercialized, the test kits are expected to cost less than NT$100 each, he said.

“After mixing the sample liquid with test fluid in the kit, consumers can find out within 12 hours whether the water is safe,” Chang said.

So far, three types of test fluids have been developed by the institute that can be applied to different uses, Chang said.

“The 100 colony-forming unit per milliliter [CFU/mL] model can be used to test tap and drinking water in schools, offices or at home; the 105 CFU/mL can be used for fish farms or food vendors [including ice cream]; and the 500 CFU/mL test kit can be used by operators of hot spring resorts, swimming pools, or spas,” Chang said.

RESULTS

However, Chang warned business owners that test results vary greatly depending on the method used, adding that the test was for reference only and could not be used to appeal environmental bureau-issued tickets.

Still, the simple kit may be useful and attractive to some, he said.

“If users follow the instructions, the accuracy rate is 90 percent that of professional lab tests,” Chang said. “So far, no such kit has been developed on the market.

“Besides, spa owners usually contract the water testing job to outside agencies, which costs a lot more than the kit,” Chang said.

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