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Solar heater water poses health risk

(Shanghai Daily)

09:21, September 08, 2011

Hot water from solar heaters may contain chemicals linked to cancer, according to industry insiders.

Their estimate is that almost all the water produced by such heaters contains high levels of nitrite, a chemical harmful to people's health, the National Business Daily reported yesterday.

They told the newspaper that normally not all the water in the heater was used at one time and the remaining water would be heated repeatedly. In the process, nitrate in the water would produce nitrite, a chemical linked to stomach cancer.

"I believe that 99 percent of water heaters have the problem," Wang Zhihui, director of Beijing Suole Solar Energy Technical Co Ltd, told the newspaper. "Even if people don't drink such water, using the water for showers over a long period could still harm people's health."

Heater manufacturers said this is a "open secret" in the industry, but no one is willing to face the problem, the newspaper said. Heater dealers said they don't tell consumers about the nitrite hazard, but remind people not to drink the water, or use it to cook or wash dishes with.

A high density of nitrite may accelerate skin's oxidation, which causes skin dehydration and aging.

"We don't have firm statistics about the specific content of nitrite in the heated water," said Fan Kangnian, a chemistry professor with Fudan University.

"So it's hard to assess the exact influence of the water on the human body," Fan said.

The quality of hot water produced by solar water heater is not taken into account in the industry standard.

Officials say China doesn't have a specific quality standard for such water.

The Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision said they usually only examine the heater, but never test the water it produces.

"Water quality tests are not included in the testing standard," said Zhao Yang, an official with the bureau.

According to the latest solar heater inspection carried out by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, about 14 percent of heaters failed quality tests, but the problems had nothing to do with the quality of the water.

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