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By AL WEBB
c. 2011 Religion News Service

LONDON (RNS) A BBC investigation is claiming that holy drinking water from Mecca is contaminated with arsenic and is being sold illegally to Muslims at shops in Britain.

The BBC report on Thursday (May 5) said its investigation uncovered that “Zamzam” water has been found bottled in large quantities at Islamic bookshops in London and the airport city of Luton, and tests turned up high levels of arsenic and nitrates.

Zamzam water comes from a well near the Islamic holy city of Mecca and is considered sacred by Muslim pilgrims. Pilgrims are allowed to bring back small amounts from Saudi Arabia, but the water cannot be exported for “commercial use.”

Dr. Duncan Campbell, president of the Association of Public Analysts, told the BBC that “the water is poisonous, particularly because of the high levels of arsenic, which is a carcinogen and can cause cancer.”

The BBC said it asked a pilgrim to Mecca “to take samples from taps which were linked to the Zamzam well and to buy bottles on sale in Mecca, to compare the water on sale illegally with the genuine source.”

The samples from Mecca “showed high levels of nitrates and potentially harmful bacteria, and traces of arsenic at three times the permitted maximum, just like the illegal water which was purchased in the UK.”

Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the Federation of Muslim Organizations in Britain, told the BBC that the Zamzam well near Mecca has been considered a source of holy water since the ancient days of Abraham and “is considered very holy.”

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