This story was first published on August 2, 2011
Circulating message warns consumers not to drink any bottled water called “DEW” because it contains a poisonous chemical that has already killed 180 people in Nigeria. A new version claims that the water contains Ebola.
The claims in the warning message are false. Nigerian authorities have refuted the claims. There are no credible reports of deaths caused by a brand of bottled water called “DEW” in Nigeria or elsewhere. And the claim that people have died from bottled water contaminated with Ebola is utter nonsense. The warning contains false information and should not be forwarded.
Dear Colleagues & FriendsPlease don’t buy or drink any bottled water called “DEW”. Customs say it was shipped into Nigeria from Tanzania where it has killed 180 people. It is said to contain a poisonous chemical. Please pass this on and save millions.
According to a warning message that circulates via SMS, social media posts and email, people should not drink a bottled water product called “DEW” because it contains a poisonous chemical that has killed 180 people in Nigeria. The message, which is labelled as an “urgent notice”, suggests that the information came from Customs. It requests users to pass on the information to warn other consumers thereby potentially saving “millions” from also dying.
A new version of the message claims that the people died because the water contained the Ebola virus.
However, the claims in the message are nonsense. Nobody has died from drinking contaminated bottled water called DEW in Nigeria, Tanzania, or anywhere else in the world. Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has investigated the claims in the warnings and found that they are untrue. In June 2011, NAFDAC issued a public statement refuting the claims. The agency asked members of the public to disregard the warnings, noting that “NAFDAC hereby informs the general public that the text message is false and mischievous as there is no poisonous water imported into the country”. The agency statement also noted:
Investigations so far by NAFDAC in several hospitals across the nation showed that there was no incident of hospitalization or death arising from consumption of Dew water, or any other brand of water.
Moreover, if 180 people had really died from drinking contaminated bottled water – in Nigeria or elsewhere – then the tragedy would have been extensively reported by news media. And, of course, there would have been immediate and well-publicized recalls for the contaminated products along with official health warnings. No such news stories, recalls, or health warnings have been published.
The hoax apparently gained momentum after a Blackberry message about the supposed contamination began circulating around Lagos in mid-June 2011. It rapidly began circulating to users outside of Nigeria, via Facebook, Twitter and email as well as phone text message.
According to NAFDAC, a water product called “Dew” was registered in 2005 while another product named Dewluk Table Water was also registered in Nigeria. When the hoax first began circulating, the Dewluc company refuted the claims and has suggested that they may have been created by “individuals who might not be comfortable with the rapid growth of the product”.
Sending on false health warnings will do nothing other than create unnecessary fear and alarm in communities. If you receive this hoax message, please do not post it to others. And please let the sender know that the claims in the message are untrue.