Be Aware of "Free Water Tests" August 16 2014

According to the Federal Trade Commission, fears about the purity of water have increased dramatically in recent years. Reports of leaking landfills, corroding lead pipes and crumbling gasoline storage tanks can paint a gloomy picture of toxic wastes, pesticides and other chemicals seeping into both ground water and wells. These fears, however, also create a perfect setting for unscrupulous salespeople to use scare tactics and fraudulent methods to sell unneeded and unnecessary water treatment devices.

If you ever receive an offer at your home for a free water analysis, be aware that such offers are almost always part of a sales promotion. Sellers that advertise "free home water testing" may only be interested in selling you a water treatment device, whether you need it or not. Because there is no charge for the "testing," consumers are often willing to allow a company representative into their home to check their water for impurities.

The Federal Trade Commission suggests that consumers take the following steps before purchasing any type of water treatment system.

Avoid "free" in-home water tests. In-home testing does not provide the specific, in-depth analysis that is required to determine if your water needs treatment and what kind of system is suited to your needs. For example, in-home water tests may only check for acidity/alkalinity, water hardness, iron, manganese and color, but none of these are harmful. Avoid dealing with salespersons who tell you strictly on the basis of their in-home testing that your drinking water is polluted, contaminated or bad for your family's health.

Be wary of claims of government approval. Fraudulent sellers use many sales techniques. Some claim that certain government agencies require or recommend widespread use of purification systems. Others claim that the government has approved a particular method for in-home water testing. Still others claim that the government has approved or licensed a particular water treatment unit or purification system. All of those claims are false. Additionally, the government doesn't endorse water tests or water treatment products. If you see an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number on a water treatment product label, it simply means that the manufacturer has registered its product with the EPA. A registration number doesn't mean the EPA has tested or approved the product.

Determine the quality of your water independently. To learn about the quality of your water, ask your local water superintendent for the latest test results of the public water supply, and then compare them to state and federal standards available from your state government and the EPA. If you use well water, contact a local environmental laboratory to find common tests.

Arrange for an independent test. If you are concerned about the results you got from your local water superintendent or are worried about possible contaminants in your water supply, have your water tested by a private laboratory that is certified by your state health department or environmental agency. Suburban Laboratories, Inc. thoroughly tests drinking water for Illinois clients and makes it easy to choose the right tests. To find out more information, go to drinkingwaterlabs.com

Decide on what you need. If tests on your water indicate problems, the next step is to determine what type of system you need to treat the water. This can be a difficult decision because there are a variety of water treatment devices on the market. Water purifiers range from relatively low-cost, simple filter devices for a kitchen faucet to more expensive, sophisticated systems that treat water from its point of entry into a home.

Comparison shop. Once you decide to purchase a particular type of water treatment system, you will have to make choices in terms of price, installation, maintenance and warranties.