Saudi officials deny Makkah holy water is polluted

Authorities hit back at BBC report of high levels of arsenic found in water from well in holy city
Saudi officials deny Makkah holy water is polluted
ZamZam water from the holy city of Makkah.
By Andy Sambidge
Sun 08 May 2011 06:54 PM

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have refuted a BBC report claiming that water from the Zamzam well in Makkah is polluted with high levels of arsenic.

The water has a special significance for many of those who go on pilgrimages to the holy city each year.

Zuhair Nawab, president of Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), said in comments published by Saudi daily Arab News that his organisation had taken measures to ensure the safety of Zamzam well and its water.

“Our experts monitor the condition of Zamzam on a daily basis. Every day we take three samples from the water to carry out tests and studies, which showed that it was not contaminated,” he told the paper.

Earlier this month, the BBC reported that holy drinking water contaminated with arsenic was being sold illegally to Muslims by UK shops.

It said that while pilgrims can bring back small amounts from Saudi Arabia, it cannot be exported for commercial use but an undercover researcher found large quantities of bottles being sold in east and south London, and in Luton.

"The water is poisonous, particularly because of the high levels of arsenic, which is a carcinogen," said Dr Duncan Campbell, president of the Association of Public Analysts in comments on the BBC news website.

But Nawaz told Arab News that the newly established King Abdullah Zamzam Water Distribution Centre in Makkah followed international standards when bottling takes place.

“We apply modern methods for filling bottles after sterilisation,” Nawab said.

He said the contamination of the water could have caused while redistributing the water in small bottles by individuals.

Fahd Turkistani, adviser to the Presidency for Meteorology and Environment, told the paper the BBC report focused on bottled water supplied by individuals and not directly from the distribution centre.

According to the World Health Organisation, the permitted arsenic rate in natural water is up to 10 microgram per litre. The amount of arsenic in Zamzam water is much less than the amount permitted by the WHO, he said.

The Saudi Embassy in London issued a statement affirming the purity of Zamzam in Makkah.

“Scientific tests conducted on samples taken from the original source have proved the Zamzam water is good for drinking,” it said, referring to tests conducted on the water at a French laboratory.

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