This article is Part 2 of our 2 part series titled Drinking Water – What Is That Glass Half Full Of? In this second installment, we will take a look at something called ‘disinfection byproducts’, and some disturbing disclosures about other substances which are finding their way into our drinking water.
Chlorine Disinfection Byproducts
Many people are unaware that treating water with chlorine, produces something referred to in the the water treatment industry as ‘disinfection byproducts’ or DBP’s. These DBP’s form because chlorine will react with any organic material in the water. Scientists and governments have known about DBP’s since the 1970’s. There are literally hundreds of chemicals created, by treating water with chlorine and chloramines and only a handful of these hundreds of chemicals are actually monitored.
Trihalomethanes (THM’s) are one group of these DBP’s. THM’s include many different chemical compounds including chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane and dibromochloromethane. Governments in Canada, the EU, the U.S. among others have set allowable limits for trihalomethane concentration in drinking water.
Haloacetic acids (HAA’s) are another group of common ‘disinfection byproducts’, resulting from use of chlorine. There are hundreds of other chemicals produced from the use of chlorine and chloramine usage, in addition to these two large groups of chemical compounds.
Source – U.S. EPA
There is significant concern from medical researchers and scientists about the THM’s and other DBP’s and their impact on human health.
According to Health Canada, several studies on humans have found a link between long-term exposure to high levels of chlorination by-products and a higher risk of cancer. For instance, a recent study showed an increased risk of bladder and possibly colon cancer in people who drank chlorinated water for 35 years or more.
Health Canada cites another study, “High levels of THMs may also have an effect on pregnancy, a California study found that pregnant women who drank large amounts of tap water with high THMs had an increased risk of miscarriage.
Health Canada maintains that these studies do not prove conclusively that there is a link between THMs and cancer or miscarriage. However, they concede that the studies show the need for further research in this area to confirm potential health effects.
Source – Health Canada Fact Sheet www.hc-sc.gc.ca – Drinking Water Chlorination
Other scientists and researchers are less restrained in their calculation of the risks.
“In Canada, approximately 700 cancer cases (per year) may be caused by exposure to THMs in drinking water.”
Source – Science Direct – Disinfection Byproducts in Canadian Provinces: Associated cancer risks and medical expenses. Shakhawat Chowdhury, Manuel J. Rodriguez, Rehan Sadiq
Journal of Hazardous Materials Volume 187, Issues 1–3, 15 March 2011
These are just some of the many studies which indicate potential serious health concerns connected with the THM’s and other water disinfection byproducts. Further studies and research are very much needed.
Excuse Me? What Is In My Drinking Water??
More and more, various organizations such as National Geographic are conducting tests and studies on water samples from all over the globe. You may be surprised by what they are finding.
According to National Geographic the following substances are found in small amounts, in water all over the world:
Source – National Geographic News February 26, 2010
In an in-depth investigative report entitled PharmaWater, the Associated Press takes a detailed look at the presence of a vast array of drugs in tap water, including anti-depressants, epilepsy drugs, pain killers, veterinary drugs, cattle steroids, heart medicine, estrogen, tranquilizers and many more.
According to Chris Wood, coauthor of “Down the Drain: How We Are Failing to Protect Our Water”, “the St. Lawrence River tests positive for about a dozen pharmaceuticals. The Fraser River, on the West Coast, tested positive for more than 200 pharmaceuticals and other high potency, man-made chemicals.” And, he warns that our water-treatment systems are “essentially defenseless against more complex chemicals.”
Source – CBC Books – Is Our Water Safe To Drink? July 2013
In the past, some researchers believed that contaminants in tap water were not likely to make people sick immediately. They believed that if the quantities of most contaminants were relatively low, then the damage to human health would come from the longer-term repeated exposure and result in various types of chronic illness. However, more recently, Health Canada acknowledged the following.
New science is showing that exposure to some chemical contaminants above guideline levels may be a concern in the short-term as well.
Source – Health Canada Fact Sheet – www.hc-sc.gc.ca Home-Environmental & Workplace Health-Water Quality-Drinking Water 2012-9-11
What About Bottled Water? You May Ask
Consumer Reports Magazine reported in July 2012 that 47% of bottled water sold in the U.S. is actually nothing more than tap water such as Aquafina and Dasani.
The other 53% of bottled water sales come from springs. The caution for the consumer in this case, is that there is less regulation of the bottled water industry than there is for municipal water treatment. So, essentially you do not know what is in that bottle of spring water. It may have come from a spring, but what tests did that company run on that water before bottling it? Without enforced regulations on these companies, they can do the barest minimum filtration procedure and no one is the wiser.
Modern Water Treatment Facilities Desperately Need Upgraded Filtration/Purification Methods
It is beyond contention that modern water treatment methods have saved thousands of lives over the previous decades from the dangers of microbiological pathogens. This is a new time though, with new challenges to deal with and water treatment methods, legislation and guidelines are behind the times and must adapt to protect the public health.
- I would suggest that the best first course of action would be for all governments to implement urgently needed legislation to put a stop to rampant environmental pollution.
- Secondly, new water treatment regulations should be implemented and strictly enforced.
- Finally, water treatment infrastructures all over the world must be upgraded and adapted with respect to findings from the latest research and they must employ newer safer, water treatment methods and technologies.
Whether it is water pollution from:
I am suggesting that the current water treatment methods and infrastructure are not as effective as they should be to protect the public from both short and long term health repercussions.
All of this, is why I filter/purify my tap water for drinking and cooking in my home with a Berkey Water Filter, and why I highly recommend you to filter/purify your own water as well.
If you missed reading Part 1 of this 2 part series, you can read it here: Drinking Water – What Is That Glass Half Full Of?
For more information about our recommended water filter see our review on how you can enjoy affordable pure filtered water in your home.
As always, please be welcome to leave any thoughts, input, or comments that you have on this subject in the comment area provided below.