Dangerous Effects of Disinfection Byproducts at Water Treatment Facilities Like THMs, VOCs, and HAAs
The addition of chlorine to water for treatment back in the 1900s was considered a breakthrough in drinking water treatment. Chlorine claimed the title of the hero of the day by saving people from multiple ailments such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery to name a few. However, as time has passed and science has progressed, it has become known that chlorine has an ugly face too.
By itself, chlorine is not harmful. It is the journey of chlorine-treated water from the treatment plants to the taps in your homes that gives birth to disinfection byproducts (DBPs). Chlorinated water reacts with many organic compounds on its way from your city’s main water treatment facility to your tap. The way is long, so DBPs have plenty of time to form and leave harmful effects on the human health.
What Are Disinfection Byproducts?
The simplest way to define and understand DBPs is that they are formed by a reaction of a disinfectant present in the water with any naturally present organic matter in the water. The DBP chemical can be both organic and inorganic and has harmful effects on humans.
Chlorination Disinfection Byproducts
Chlorine is the most common disinfectant present in water. When it travels in pipelines, it reacts with naturally present substances such as humic acid, fulvic acid, amino acids, bromide and iodide ions, and other organic matter to form various DBPs.
These DBPs include trihalomethanes (THMs), bromate, chlorite, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). Other DBPs include emerging DBPs such as halonitromethanes, haloamides, haloacetonitriles, halofuranones, iodo-acids, nitrosamines and others.
The only way to keep yourself safe from these harmful DBPs is by protecting your house with the aid of whole house water filters.
Non-Chlorinated Disinfection Byproducts
Many other disinfectants are used in treating water, which react further with natural organic matter in the water distribution network and with biofilms present in the pipes.
Several powerful oxidizing agents are used for treating and disinfecting water. For instance, ozone used as a disinfectant in the water reacts and produces carboxylic acids, aldehydes, and ketones. Similarly, bromine in water produces bromate by reaction in the water lines. Bromate is a potential carcinogenic, so it is extremely hazardous to health.
Health Hazards Caused by DBPs
1. Risk of Cancer
According to a study, cancer risk among people consuming or using chlorinated water is 93% higher than people staying away from chlorinated water.
Some 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year. A research pinpointed that long-term consumption of water treated with chlorine had 80% more chance of resulting in bladder cancer.
Chlorinated water is also a cause of breast cancer. The fact is backed by studies that show that women with breast cancer have 50-60% higher levels of THMs in their fat tissue than women without cancer.
Drinking chlorinated water also causes colon cancer. The rising rates of colon cancer have been officially linked to the consumption of chlorine-infected water. An epidemiologist at the Oak Ridge Associated Universities conducted a study on the matter and concluded that drinking chlorinated water for 15 years increased the chances of colon cancer.
2. Effects on the Reproduction System
DBPs are not only carcinogenic by nature, but they also lead to other problems. One of the other significant health hazards is on the reproductive system of humans. The effects include:
- Birth defects
- Babies born small in size
- Early miscarriages
The Best Solution
Many attempts are being made to regulate the DBPs such as HAAs and THMs in the drinking water. For this purpose, attempts are being made by drinking water treatment plants to switch to alternative disinfectants.
However, you can never be sure if any measures are being taken from the water treatment and distribution end. Moreover, even if that is achieved, water used for other household purposes remains unsafe. Everyone has to ensure the safety of their families.
Drinking bottled water is one solution to this issue that is in your control. However, it is not a permanent, long-term solution, as it still does not protect you and your family from exposure to DBP-infected water during showers, doing the laundry and even dishwashing.
For example, taking a warm shower with water affected by DBPs can lead to the absorption of 2 times more DBPs than by drinking 2 liters of tap water. Therefore, you need to have a reliable solution for the entire house. This can be ensured using filtered water bottle, water filter pitcher, under sink water filter, and whole house water filters.
Each of the filtration methods has its own perks and advantages. These are discussed below:
1. A portable measure to ensure safety
A filtered water bottle is an excellent means of getting filtered water on the go. Since there are lots of times when you or your family members go out and would need water, it is unsafe to drink water from taps present in school facilities or work areas.
Filtered water bottle ensures that if water is filled from any sources of water or taps, it is filtered and cleaned from any DBPs on the spot. Hence, the consumed water is free from any risks of health hazards. These bottles ensure that your routine of clean and safe drinking water continues outside the four safe walls of your house.
2. Clean pitchers of filtered and safe water
A water filter pitcher is a filtering jug that yields water which is safe to drink. You can use this as an affordable means to have water free from DBPs. The water from this source can be used for various purposes such as drinking and cooking to name a few.
3. A kitchen with safe dishwashing and clean drinking water
An under sink water filter is a means to ensure that your entire kitchen activities are conducted with water that is safe to consume. The under sink water filter is installed, as its name suggests, under the sink of your kitchen so that you can use clean water for washing dishes, cooking and drinking. It ensures that all kitchen activities use water that is safe, clean and free from any health hazards.
4. Fully protected house with all taps providing filtered water
If you live in an area where the water supply is full of doubts in the first place, you need to make sure that your entire house is protected with a filtering system. This is so because showering with water contaminated with DBPs can be very harmful and, in fact, far more dangerous than consuming DBP-infected water.
Whole house water filters are installed at the main water supply system of your house so that even before the water enters your house, it is made safe for consumption.
This is also an efficient means to protect the entire house so that all the water taps including those in the bathroom are protected and give filtered water. This ensures full protection minus any chances of health issues.
The disinfecting byproducts have been on the rise and studies have shown that not only can these chemicals cause cancer, but they also lead to other problems such as miscarriages.
Your protection lies in your own hand as one can never fully rely on the path that water takes in the distribution network to be fully safe. Both portable and permanent solutions are present for you in the form of water filtration pitchers and bottles. Keep your kitchen clean and make sure that the drinking water in your house is clean with under sink water filters or simply keep the complete house safe with whole house water filters.
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