Potential health hazard of Chlorinated tap water

Chlorination is the process of adding the element chlorine to water as a method of water purification to make it fit for human consumption as drinking water. Water which has been treated with chlorine is effective in preventing the spread of waterborne disease. The use of chlorine has greatly reduced the prevalence of waterborne disease as it is effective against almost all bacteria and viruses, as well as amoeba. Chlorination is also used to sanitize the water in swimming pools and as a disinfection stage in sewage treatment.

 

Disinfection by chlorination can be problematic, in some circumstances. Chlorine can react with naturally occurring organic compounds found in the water supply to produce compounds known as disinfection byproducts (DBPs). The most common DBPs are trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). Lab animals exposed to very high levels of THMs have an increased risk of cancer. Several studies on humans have also 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.

 

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. These studies do not prove that there is a link between THMs and cancer or miscarriage. However, they do show the need for further research in this area to confirm potential health effects.