The Dangers of Water Disinfectant
Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) are volatile organic compounds in drinking water. These byproducts are caused when chlorination is used to disinfect drinking water. Since TTHMs have the potential to cause reproductive problems and cancer, humans are lodged between a rock and a hard place. Because of pollutants in drinking water, we know our water must be purified, and we also know that once water is disinfected, the chemicals added to it can be dangerous to human life.
TTHMs: Chlorination Byproducts
TTHMs can be a naturally occurring organic product in some areas of the United States, such as southwest Florida, where decaying plants add organic TTHMs to the drinking water. In just about all other cases, these byproducts are caused when chlorination disinfectants added to the water mix with naturally occurring organic products. These byproducts have the potential to be deadly. This information really is cause for alarm, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that virtually all sources of approved drinking water have some level of TTHMs present. Drinking water is chlorinated to remove a variety of parasites, bacteria and viruses, such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever. This process has saved thousands of lives. But TTHMs come with their own possible set of health issues that have the potential to be just as horrific. In some studies, TTHMs are linked to cancer risks, most especially bladder and colorectal cancer, and both are on the rise. In other studies it is associated with reproductive risks in the unborn fetus, as well as miscarriage. In addition, other scientific studies conclude that TTHMs may also be linked to a vast array of ailments or damage to the central nervous system, the heart, kidneys, liver and lungs.
Determining and Setting TTHMs Levels
Equally disturbing is the fact that TTHMs are absorbed through the skin in addition to through drinking. In one study it was determined that in a 10-minute shower, an individual would absorb as much TTHMs through their skin as they would if they have drunk five full glasses of cold tap water. In order to keep health risks down, the EPA has determined that public water supplies are limited to a mere 0.08 parts per billion (ppb), which is down from 0.1 ppb. According to the Safe Water Act of 1974, homeowners should receive an annual letter from their water supplier stating well testing strategies and what has been found in their water system by July 1st. If you are new to your area and have not been informed about the water supply, do yourself a favor and visit the city offices and find out what chemicals are in your water.