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In the first part of my series on how to store water, I mentioned that storing flats of bottled water is about the most dangerous way of doing it. It’s too bad, too, because nothing could be easier or more convenient than picking up a case or two of bottled water every month, stacking them in the garage, and forgetting about them.

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Alas, in this case convenience comes with a very high price.

Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that 40% of bottled water does not come from some pristine lake or underground glacier. Much of it is no different than what you can get out of your own tap, and that’s not counting the brands that actually get run through a filter.

If you think all bottled water is somehow more pure than kitchen tap water, you could be in for a nasty surprise. The bottled water industry is less regulated than municipal tap water, and some of the water out there isn’t even filtered at all. It’s simply poured into those bottles direct from the faucet and sold to you, the trusting sucker, at a 1900% markup.

In blind taste tests, consumers actually chose tap water over some of the samples of bottled water they were offered.

But that’s just the side of bottled water that is a national scam, it’s not the physically harmful part. The real danger from bottled water is…the bottles. Almost all are manufactured using the chemical Bisphenol-A, which turns out to be a very nasty thing indeed.

Recent studies have been demonstrating that Bisphenol-A (BPA) can wreak all kinds of havoc on the human body, including fatigue, cancers, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, infertility, diabetes, and, of all things, obesity. Ever wonder why you’re not losing weight after drinking that bottled water during your workout? The chemicals in that bottle could be working against you.

But the most alarming finding of late is that BPA may be the reason we’re seeing so many children experiencing the onset of early puberty. Young girls raised on bottled water are beginning to develop breasts as early as seven and eight years old, and boys are experiencing their own set of problems, as the chemical seems to trigger estrogen hormones within both sexes. Meanwhile, in grown men, erectile dysfunction is affecting a younger and younger demographic.

The reason seems to be that Bisphenol-A acts as an endocrine disruptor, mimicking the human hormones that regulate growth and development, and throwing a curve ball into the normal processes of sexual development.

If you haven’t heard of any of this it’s because of the efforts of the Society of the Plastics Industry, a lobby that represents thousands of products made with BPA.  Sales of that chemical now top $6 billion dollars a year, and for decades that industry has been able to control the debate on whether BPA is harmful to human health.  According to a recent expose published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, The Food and Drug administration has been relying on studies financed by the industry itself to declare the chemical safe.  So much for reliance on Big Brother to look out for your best interests.

But now the truth is leaking out.  A rash of new studies are showing that the chemical is far from benign; that it’s capable of doing much more damage to humans much more quickly than anyone had previously suspected.

Here’s what makes it worse: letting those water bottles sit around for a long time, and exposing them to heat.

Imagine you’ve just taken a tray of warm cinnamon rolls from the oven. That wonderful smell that’s filling your house is billions of molecules actually leaving the hot pastries and filling the air. What is entering your nostrils are really billions of tiny, invisible, quantum bits of cinnamon roll that have been violently thrown off by the heat and are now flying around the room.

That’s pretty much what’s happening with Bisphenol-A, but in a much less delectable way. Billions of molecules of the stuff are constantly dissolving off the inside of the bottle and into the water you will eventually drink.  Heat speeds up the process, and heat plus time only makes it worse. If you’ve got cases of water just sitting in your garage summer after summer, you’re asking for trouble big time.

Have you ever wondered how far those flats of water have traveled by train or truck before they ever got to the store, and how much heat they’ve been exposed to along the way? The trucks carrying that water are not refrigerated, and in the summer those bottles can get very hot.  Scientists estimate that within six months of bottling, enough BPA has leached into the water in that bottle to seriously mess you up.  This isn’t the water you want to have waiting for you in an emergency.

The good news is that some experts believe BPA does not stay in your system permanently. The bad news is that the average person still absorbs the poison so frequently (BPA is also present in the packaging of virtually every microwave meal), that it’s probably present in your system all the time anyway, constantly working it’s evil magic.

Want to put your health in even greater jeopardy? Refill that plastic bottle and use it again and again. That’s what my wife and I have been doing for several years, unaware that each time we refilled a plastic water bottle we were practically scraping poisons off the inside of the bottle and swirling them into our clean water.

Because of the convenience of having bottles of cold water always in the refrigerator, we regularly would buy a flat of water, refilling each bottle from our kitchen filter numerous times.

We don’t do that any more.

You can Google the dangers of bottled water as I did, and never come to the end of reports documenting the harm that stuff does. Not long ago I went out and bought plastic bottles that are labled BPA free, and we fill and reuse those now. Sometimes I even drink my water the old fashioned way, from a glass.

After what I know now, I wouldn’t take another drink of bottled water on a dare.


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69 Responses to “Why You Must Not Store Bottled Water”

  1. Emily

    It’s really too bad. Bottled water IS very convenient. Frankly, I’m not comfortable using any sort of plastic with food, actually. Right now we know about BPA, but what else is there that we haven’t discovered yet? In our house, we try to use glass and stainless steel whenever possible. For our drinking water we use the machines in grocery stores, because they use reverse osmosis AND UV filtering, and we wouldn’t be able to do those at home. So we fill glass jugs at the grocery store. Leftover food goes in glass containers, not plastic. We’re not perfect–we still use baggies sometimes, so that’s food in contact with plastic. (We also occasionally use plastic wrap, but I try to keep it from touching food directly.) I do feel less concerned about using plastic with dry foods–I keep my flour and sugar in plastic containers.

    We stopped using the microwave because we’re worried about what it does to our food, too. Sometimes it’s inconvenient, but you have to think, you know, what is the REAL cost of one of these conveniences, and is it something you’re really willing to give up? Cancers, obesity, and messed up hormones (etc, etc) are a pretty big price for a little convenience. It’s easy to choose just to not think about these issues. But really, choosing not to think about it doesn’t eliminate your risk at all, you know?

      • Ben

        Glass is great but are we talking mason jars here? Glass is heavy and breaks. So then where do you find anything vaguely close to affordable in a BPA free container. If you look for them online, they are small and terribly cost prohibitive. I want to store a years worth of water … to do that I need about 3650 gallons – have you seen what that costs?

        Ok, I get it that the plastic bottles are dangerous, but what are the real alternatives for mass and long term water storage?

  2. Vince

    You do a pretty good job of telling a scary story. Please provide references for the allegations so people who want to read original sources on their own can do so. You don’t trust the plastics industry because they have an “ax to grind”, but don’t you also?

    • Rock

      As I think I mentioned above, a simple google search on the dangers of plastic water bottles will net you more documentation than you’ll care to read. I can’t think of a personal axe I have to grind. I loved the convenience of drinking from and re-using plastic water bottles, and it actually disappoints me that it’s not safe to continue doing so.

    • Bumpkin

      I was watching my local news the other day and they made mention of BPA and the recent discovery that it has been found to leave the body in under a week if one stops using plastics that have BPA in it. During this report, it was stated that bottles you can crush easily in your hand likely do not have BPA in them- I have no idea if that also pertains to baggies or plastic wrap, but it might. I say stay away from BPA. I buy Crystal Geyser bottled water, because I have a well, which gets quite muddy in the winters after a rain, (I also have a little faucet-type filter in my kitchen) and whether or not there is BPA in crystal geyser bottles, after I let it sit- perhaps half a bottle, for overnight or even a day, I can TOTALLY smell and taste the nastiest mouthful of putrid chemicals I have ever put into my mouth. I have extremely sensitive tastebuds and super-sensitive sense of smell. After realizing this and knowing it was simply plastics in solution I was tasting and smelling, I have decided to not purchase any more bottled water, as I am absolutely certain that anything that tastes that horrid has to hurt you if ingested. I am now using my little filter on my faucet, then boiling the water, as I have had H Pylori more than once, from contaminated water. I will research H Pylori, and find the filter system that is the most economical that will take these gram negative bugs out of my water. – If you don’t filter, you ARE the filter!

  3. jon burch

    are there currently,any plastic water bottles that are free of BPA, like arrowhead ,or calistoga??

  4. Rock

    Jon, pretty much all the plasic bottles buy in stores or in cases contain BPA. The large bottles delivered by Arrowhead and others are of another material. The jury is still out on those larger gallon bottles, of the style milk usually is contained in. That is a different type of plastic, but as Emily remarks above, we really don’t know everything yet about the unknown dangers. Certainly plastic wrap, particularly when used in the microwave, is unhealthy. I wish I could bring myself to stop using the microwave as Emily has, but I’m not there yet.

    Leo, glass bottles are fine. As are stainless steel, but I don’t like the metallic taste I seem to be getting from the steel bottle I’ve tried.

    • Danny

      Actually, the little Arrowhead bottles DO NOT contain BPA. You can tell this by looking at the bottle of the .5 L bottles. The recycle number is “1”, which indicates that the bottle is made of PETE.

  5. Lolly

    Does anybody know if Fiji water is bottled in a SAFE plastic bottle???

    • Julie

      Any plastic that is safe will advertise it now because so much of the truth has gotten out about BPA. Sometimes you will have to look on the bottom of the bottle to check. Also, just because something says it’s microwave safe does not mean that it is BPA free. Same goes with dishwasher safe. The heat from the dishwasher or microwave will release chemicals into the food. After researching this, I threw away all my plastic storage ware and bowls and only use glass. The market is responding and making cheap sets of storage bowls with lids that seal and are BPA free. As far as bottled water, I don’t use it. I have great well water and use a BPA bottle if I want some for on the go. I’m at a dilemma as to how to store water. I could buy large quantities of BPA free bottles but my first choice is to install a windmill for the well pump and then I’ll have unlimited water. It’s a problem anytime we have a storm and lose our electricity anyway.

  6. Hunter Simpson

    So is filling them up at the store or buying a reverse-osmosis system the only way to go then? I have recently started to stock up on ‘Great Value’ distilled gallon jugs from Wal-Mart, but after reading this post I’m considering an alternative. Any sources of large glass jugs?

    • Rock

      As far as I’m aware, the large plastic bottles you can buy that are similar to the ones you get with home delivery are safe. The Berkey Water filter uses a BPA free plastic reservoir, for instance.

    • Emily

      In my comment I mentioned we use glass jugs. We don’t use them for our official “water storage” because many sorts of emergencies could result in broken glass, which would just make everything worse. I figure if the crisis is bad enough that I’m drinking water storage, I’d much rather stay alive and be exposed to unknown plastic problems (especially for a relatively short period) than lose my water storage because I was insisting on having it be as safe as possible. Maybe some sort of combination of containers would be good, though, and glass ones could be part of it? I don’t know.

      Having said that, I’ve bought glass jugs from a couple different places. We typically use 1 gallon jugs, which I bought at a local natural-foods type store. We wanted something bigger, though, so I bought a 5 gallon glass barrel at a local store for people who make their own…beer? I think it was? I guess making beer requires glass containers for some reason. I don’t know anything about it, except that they sell glass containers. I actually wanted a 3 gallon glass jug but they were all out and I decided to buy the 5 gallon one instead. This turned out to be a mistake. The 5 gallon glass container is VERY heavy, which makes it difficult to use on a daily basis. We usually fill the 5 gallon one and then use it to refill the 1 gallon containers. (It would be totally fine for storage, though, where you’re not moving it around much.) The beer supply store also sold some other sizes of glass jugs and barrels.

      You CAN also find these sorts of glass containers online; that was where I looked first. I think I paid about $4 for the 1 gallon jugs and… hmm… maybe about $30 for the 5 gallon barrel? The cheapest I remember finding 1 gallon jugs online was $12-$15 plus shipping, which is spendy because glass is fairly heavy to ship. I would definitely recommend looking for a local store that caters to people who ferment their own stuff. I don’t know how common those stores are. The place I went was in downtown Salt Lake. Next best would be a natural groceries type store. I’ve never seen glass containers at more popular stores; the closest you can usually find is glass iced tea containers, and they’re not very big and they usually include a bunch of plastic for a lid and spigot.

      • Rock

        That’s helpful information, Emily. I plum forgot that these things exist for brewers. There is a small chain of stores here in California known as Berverages and More that most likely would have glass jugs.

        I agree that glass isn’t feasible for long term storage, but I think having a few 1-3 gallon jugs nearby for short term storage might be a good idea.

      • Jerry

        Emily, I make my own wine and have several of the five gallon glass bottles containers. I found they have a strap type system with handles on it to pick it up and it adjust to fit my three gallon jug and makes it great for handling. Also at LOWES they have a hand (palm) pump that fits the five gallon jugs of water they sell there in the front of the store for pumping the water out so you don’t have to lift them. That and other supplies can be found on the Internet and on wine making supplies web sites. Good luck, Jerry

  7. eric nueman

    Thank you for the well written letter presented here. I’m switching stocks to glass bottles over here in europe.

  8. Garth Michaels

    I know of portable water filtration containers that look like common sports bottles. One of these portable filtration systems uses the exact same filtering that was used to drink Katrina-spoiled water (yummy). If water in BPA-containing plastic bottles were stored and then drunk through one of these water filtration containers, would that be safe? If so, that would most certainly be convenient and inexpensive!

    • Rock

      Most plastic bottles that are designed to be re-used, such as those attached to portable filter systems, are BPA free. I would personally be reluctant to deliberately poor BPA contaminated water into one in hopes that the filter will remove any molecular contaminants. It’s one thing to filter water from a stream that you can’t do anything about, it’s another to poor water that has been contaminated by synthetic toxins in hopes that the filter will purify it completely. The short answer: Not many filters can thoroughly purify all water.

  9. Tom Lauria -- IBWA

    This is Tom Lauria from the International Bottled Water Association. The single-serve PET plastic water bottles you are concerned about do nolt contain BPA. Studies going back decades show that PET plastic is safe for food storage. Medicines, cosmetics and thousands of food products are all safety stored in PET plastic. The article is also mistaken about how bottled water from municipal sources is produced. It is not just tap water in a bottle. Bottled water products – whether from groundwater or public water sources – are produced utilizing a multi-barrier approach. From source to finished product, a multi-barrier approach helps prevent possible harmful contamination to the finished product as well as storage, production, and transportation equipment. Measures in a multi-barrier approach may include one or more of the following: source protection, source monitoring, reverse osmosis, distillation, micro-filtration, carbon filtration, ozonation, ultraviolet (UV) light or other safe and effective methods. Many of the steps in a multi-barrier system may be effective in safeguarding bottled water from microbiological and other contamination.

    In our culture, there should not be a tap water versus bottled water issue. Most people who drink bottled water also drink tap water, depending on the circumstances. Consumers choose bottled water for several reasons, including taste, quality, and convenience. Bottled water is also an alternative to other packaged beverages when consumers want to eliminate or moderate calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol and other ingredients from their diets. At a time when obesity, diabetes and heart disease are so prevalent, the consumption of water, whether from the bottle or the tap, is a good thing, and any actions (such as this incorrect eFood article) that discourage people from drinking bottled water are not in the public’s interest.

    • Rock

      The International Bottled Water Association is a trade group representing the interests of a number of plastic bottle manufacturers. The association has a vested interest in minimizing the fallout from recent scientific reports concerning the dangers inherent in the manufacture and sales of bottled water. I invite readers to take neither my opinions nor the position of a trade group at face value, but rather to do their own research and make their own decisions based on the findings available.

      I agree that water is certainly preferable to sodas and other unhealthy beverages, but when both the water and the sodas are sold in the same types of plastic bottles manufactured with BPA, the argument over which is drink is better skirts the issue.

      I also don’t claim that all bottled water is direct from the tap; certainly only a minority of bottled water has been found to have skipped the filtration process (according to those tested, about 40%). However, Mr. Laurie cannot speak for those bottlers who are not members of the trade association he represents. It may or may not be that all members of the IBWA certify to having proper filtration methods in place, but not all bottlers are members of the IBWA.

  10. Bob Harmeson

    What if you run your bottled water thru The Berkey Light Water Filter before drinking, would that provide a margin of safety?

    • Rock

      Jim, I don’t have information on how effective any filter is in removing the toxins left by BPA, but the Berkey is able to filter out some of the most microscopic poisons in water, including flouride if you have the flouride attachment filters.

      Because the longer water stays bottle up in a bottle manufactured with BPA, the more BPA ends up in the water, I personally wouldn’t store my water long term with the hope that when I need it years later I could just run it through a filter. My personal feelings are that the risks outweigh any convenience. convenience.

    • Rock

      Yes, Janet, the Aqua-Tainer is the one I use and recommend in part three of my series on water storage.

    • Rock

      Ruth, the first sentence of my piece above contains a link to my series on How To Store Water. Hopefully that series will tell you much of what you need to know.

  11. Jodee

    Does anyone know if Brita pitchers contain BPA? Our family drinks ONLY filtered well water from our Brita pitcher, which is kept in the refrigrator. The pitcher is made of clear plastic.

    • Rock

      The Brita is a harder plastic (the type escapes me at the moment) and is BPA free. Simple filters like the Brita and Pur types that attach to the faucet are okay depending on your municipal water. I’ve used the Pur, but keep in mind that and Brita are primarily charcoal and nothing more, so it will improve the taste and do a modicum of good, but cannot filter out many of the more common toxins. I look at such filters as “better than nothing”, and used them when I could not afford better, but I recommend getting a Berkey as soon as you can afford to. Then if you still like keeping the Brita pitcher in the fridge for convenience, why not? Another layer of filtering, plus the good taste.

  12. steve

    I think a viable alternative is cans of juice, clear soda, beer, and wines in bottles. are we going to suddenly abandon our pleasure foods? Also there’s nothing wrong with drinking the juice of canned veggies and fruits!

    • Rock

      Good idea for the short term, Steve, but most canned beverages have only about a two year shelf life. I like the idea of having some soda on hand, though. Just have to rotate it.

  13. Barbara Marchetti

    I have a 20′ x 40′ pool, and a brook running through our property – so it seems to me that if I purchase a water purifier I will be good to go -except during the winter, when I will need to use stored water. Do water purifiers remove e-coli?

    • Rock

      I think the Berkey will be ideal for you, Barbara. A pool is a great resource except for the chlorine, which will also be removed by the Berkey purifier.

  14. Hazel Correll

    If you store water in glass or BPA free containers (PET) you can add colloidial silver to your water for long term storage, Collodial Silver is a must for water storage and every emergency kit.

    • Rock

      An excellent suggestion, Hazel. Except when you change the water out, you’ll be losing the colloidal silver, and the money you spent on it. Would it not be better to have a bottle of silver on hand and add it later?

      • Amanda Koh

        I have wondered this myself. Also – is it possible that you would not have to change out the water because is has colloidal silver?

  15. Lynn Jacobs

    When I’m away from home, I use Kleen Kanteens, which are stainless steel water bottles. I used to use the beautifully colored plastic ones until I learned about the BPA a few years ago. Then I bought the “BPA-free” bottles, but frankly, I’m not comfortable with those either. I just made the investment in the stainless ones and hope there’s nothing untoward lurking in there that we’ll learn about in a few years!

  16. Rock

    Lynn, in my limited experience with stainless steel containers, I could swear I was getting a metallic taste. Perhaps I just picked the wrong brand. Do you taste anything with Kleen Kanteen?

    • Amanda Koh

      Rock, I have purchased a few stainless steel bottles, and have noticed that metallic taste – particularly after the bottle has been dropped. The one I have now, though, I cannot taste anything metallic, and it is a Kleen Kanteen. Moreover, my husband has the same bottle, and HAS dropped it once, putting a slight dent in the bottom. It still does not have any metallic taste that I can sense. I just read a bit more about their products, and it says they use a thicker steel, and have the highest quality. After using this bottle for awhile, I’m a believer in their products. I’m currently using the Reflect, and it says Stainless 18/8 on the bottom. I also have the wide mouth version, which has a stainless steel cap as well (only with a bead of silicon to seal it). I previously had the plastic cap tops, but my husband and I noticed those can wear down over time, and he believes, that is from threading it on and off – with microshavings of plastic getting into the water. He said he even saw plastic shavings in his water when he dumped it into a glass once. Over time, those lids could wear down enough that they wouldn’t seal well because they were so stripped. I’ve been extremely impressed with this bottle, and highly recommend you give it a try. There is definitely a difference in the taste with this one, and I love it.

  17. Orcinus

    While this is true that the plastic contains bad stuff. It is Basic High School Chemistry that will show you that the longer you use the SAME bottle, the LESS of this contaminant, or any other contaminant, there will be in the bottle as you are washing more and more of it away with each load of water. It is using NEW bottles that keeps the contamination levels high. Reuse the same bottle, or group of bottles, there will be less and less of the contaminant in each filling of water and the level of the contaminant will approach zero. It’s simple chemistry and physics.

    IBWA says the bottles are safe. Yea, and Philip Morris said for years cigarettes are safe too. Sounds like a confilict of interest.

    • Amanda Koh

      That is simple chemistry and physics, but that sounds like an assumption rather than proven fact. Perhaps it does wash out enough BPA over time that the contamination ceases to be a problem. Or, perhaps even after years of use, there could still be enough BPA leaching out that it would be of concern to most. Unless you know this to be the case, and have evidence of studies done both under normal conditions and in hot/cold environments, I’d be careful about giving advice based on assumptions.

  18. Scott Tadsen

    Perhaps your article, for Tom Laurias sake, could have worded it differently and said that some bottled waters are from “municipal water sources”. This could mean the faucet in my house or the public restroom at the local park or a local bottling company like “Coke” or “Pepsi”. I understand it. There was no misunderstanding as to what you were trying to say. The filtration was nothing extra for some of these bottled water companies and may even be at the most minimal compared to your homes filtration system. No problem. No need to get all defensive except when you have money in it, right? Tom says that persons who drink bottled water are likely to drink tap water as well. Is that not all of us, we drink water when we eat out at a restaurant from the tap and at home as well. The thing is that we drink from a bottle because we think it is better/safer and it is definitely convenient and WE DON’T EXPECT TO BE POISONED TOM!

  19. Dee

    I just read this & realize I purchased quite a few cases of Metro mint water last christmas for long term storage. It stored in basement to keep cooler but it did travel across county in truck for delivery. Then I purchased Bathtub Bob Plastic & a large barrel ..hard plastic to store water Are you suggesting don’t use these items (minus Berkely)? Yikes Pollution in our well, river we live on. This water issue is huge!

  20. Margaret

    I have read all of yur comments on water about BPA. There are no comments at all about BPA lining food cans. I have heard that can be dangerous also. It seems to me that we have been eating food out of cans since Hector was a pup and cannot notice any dangerous ramificatons after all these years. I am experienced after 85 years of doing that.
    Our one advantage of living where we do is that the water has been tested with 25 other cities and is considerd the best in the US.

    • Larry Dunnington

      Margaret, this might be causing the huge rise in cancer, diabetes, bone disease, high blood pressure, birth defects, osteoporosis and a host of other problems.

  21. James

    Why don’t you just run your own water distillation at home with glass beakers and such? Oh yeah. Because the cops will think you’re running some sort of meth lab. Damn it! Guilty until proven innocent.

  22. Brandon

    So even when I try to stay away from bottles I have to use plastic when I store my water in the 2 gallon Brita dispenser.

  23. Anonymous

    Walmart’s bottled water (Great Value) says 1 PETE on the bottom. Does this mean it’s safe BPA free?

  24. Anonymous

    this article might have been valid about 5 years ago. but the FACT is that 99% of plastic water bottles today are made with PET plastic, which contains 0 % BPA…. and to suffer any of the harmful effects that this article tries to scare you with you would have to come into contact with an astronomical amount of BPA, something that just isnt possible. early onset of puberty in females is more closely related to mothers consuming larger amounts of birth control estrogens, which they then can pass onto their children. look up the facts people.

    • Anonymous

      or, maybe it could be all the hormones used to speed up the life cycle of factory farmed animals. We sure do seem to like those “perfect” chicken breasts.

  25. Pam Horner

    The Old West pioneers dropped a silver dollar in their milk to preserve it. Should work for water, too. There was a reason the rich ate off sterling silver.

  26. Blanche

    Hi there! This article could not be written much better!

    Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept talking about this. I am going to send this article to
    him. Fairly certain he’ll have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Sid

    Good information in general and some good specifics, but how about some scientific data to back up the claims? I agree with Vince’s comment of March 18, 2011 where the axes get sharpened and the conscience of the public is all that’s getting cut up. I’ve heard of plastics made entirely from corn, and surely by now, the powers that be can find a solution to this issue, assuming they’ve got the wits to recognize a “real” problem.


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