Risk of Chlorine in Water
Chlorine is added as part of the drinking water treatment process. However, chlorine also reacts with the organic matter, naturally present in water, such as decaying leaves. This chemical reaction forms a group of chemicals known as disinfection by-products. The most common of these by-products are trihalomethanes (THMs), which include chloroform. The amount of THMs found in drinking water depends on a number of things, including the season and the source of the water.
Chlorine is easy to apply and small amounts of the chemical remain in the water as it travels in the distribution system from the treatment plant to the consumer's tap,This level of effectiveness ensures that microorganisms cannot recontaminate the water after it leaves the treatment plant. 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.
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