Trihalomethanes in Drinking Water

March 2002

Trihalomethane is a by-product that comes from chlorination.

It is one of the toxic carcinogens created when Chlorine reacts with organic matter in water. When this matter decays - somewhat like compost materials (leaves, bark, sediments) Trihalomethanes are formed. This includes chemicals called chloroform, bromoform and dichlorobromethane. Even in small amounts they are all very carcinogenic.

Since the publication of the study by Environmental Working Group and the Public Interest Research Groups, trihalomethanes have been the focus of news articles across the United States. Following are a few excerpts from articles that relate to nationwide water issues, followed by the Water Quality Association's recommendation of a home water filtration system to protect consumers from potential health problems associated with trihalomethanes.

THMs (Trihalomethanes)in blood increase after shower
Chapel Hill, NC, May 3, 2002 (Water Tech Online)

THMs, by-products from chlorination, appear to increase significantly in the bloodstream after showering, says a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.

Public health experts suspect the chemicals might boost the risk of cancer and contribute to reproductive problems such as miscarriages, a release by UNC said.

Through blood sample analysis, researchers measured THMs in the blood of 25 women at each site before and soon after they showered, and compared those levels to concentrations found in tap water in their houses.

THM concentrations were around 1,000 times lower in blood than in tap water, but after the showers, median levels in blood increased by a factor of four.

February 10, 2002, - From Washington, DC (Washington Post)

"Annette Spaven already had three children when she found out she was pregnant again four years ago. She and her husband were surprised but pleased by the prospect of welcoming another child into their Chesapeake, VA home. So when she suffered a miscarriage in the first trimester, they tried again. Six months later, she lost another baby.

About the same time, two women on her block had miscarriages. Across town, a woman gave birth to a boy who died shortly after birth. For more than a decade, they and others wondered why they'd suddenly lost their pregnancies.

Today, many are wondering if they might have lost their babies simply because they drank tap water while they were pregnant. It's a question that has roiled this booming port community ever since residents became aware of controversy surrounding chemicals in the public drinking supply. Now, 25 women are suing the city, and nearly 170 more have filed their intentions to do so.

In a statement last month, the EPA called the issue of chlorination byproducts in drinking water an important health concern.

Meanwhile, however, millions of Americans are unaware of what their water utilities know: The levels of chlorination byproducts in their drinking water often spike higher than the EPA's allowable annual average.

The EPA does not require this information to be included in regular water quality reports from utilities."

For the complete article, go to: Click or paste -

February 8, 2002, - From Alamo, Texas (The Monitor)

"A woman has filed a lawsuit against the city of Alamo, claiming that trihalomethanes (THMs) caused her to miscarry three times.

In the suit, Judith Expericueta says she drank Alamo's tap water during her pregnancies and the chemicals in it caused her to have three spontaneous miscarriages.

The EPA says that concentrated exposure to THMs may elevate the risk of spontaneous miscarriages during the first trimester. The TNRCC said the city of Alamo has the highest levels of THMs in Texas, but stressed that there is no immediate cause for alarm. The agency has cited the city several times in the past two years for exceeding the acceptable limit.

Alamo's THM levels for two years has been between 88.83 and 141.03 parts per billion. The state on January 1st set the maximum acceptable limit at 80 parts per billion."

January 22, 2002, - From Boston, Massachusetts (Ascribe News)

"Environmental epidemiologists from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzing tap water samples from 36 surface water systems throughout Massachusetts have found high levels of disinfection by-products (DBPs), which form during water treatment and transport, and a wide range of by-product activity in the water supplies they tested.

Using 88 tap water samples form 36 Massachusetts communities taken between spring 1997 and fall 1998, the researchers studied how the formation of DBPs is influenced by water treatment. Within the communities in the study, 24 used chlorine to disinfect the water supply with 10 of those towns chlorinating their water twice prior to distribution. One town used ozone and another used chlorine dioxide for disinfection. The remaining 12 used chloramine to disinfect their water supply. The researchers found that water that had been chlorinated multiple times prior to distribution was associated with higher THM levels and that THM levels are generally higher in the spring. "

February 19, 2002, - Westminster, Maryland (Carroll County Times)

"Maryland's tap water may be putting women at risk of having pregnancies end in miscarriage or having children with birth defects, according to a report by two environmental groups (Public Interest Research Groups and Environmental Working Group).

14 communities in Maryland had a relatively high proportion of people projected to be at risk from using their local drinking water. The group arrived at its findings after reviewing data on tap water contaminated by trihalomethanes, one of the principal byproducts of chlorination. The Maryland Department of the Environment, Water Management Administration, provided these results."

The full report is available at: Click or Paste -

January 11, 2002, - Florida (Florida Today)

"The water they drink puts more than 1,700 pregnant women in Florida at risk of miscarriages or birth defects each year, according to a study released by two environmental groups (Public Interest Research Groups and Environmental Working Group).

Florida ranked 14th worst in the nation for the number of pregnancies at risk of exposure to high levels of chlorination byproducts, the study found. Boca Raton was the worst in the state and 36th in the nation with 654 pregnancies at risk. "

THM victims group formed
Chesapeake, VA, March 21, 2001 (Water Tech Online)

"Trihalomethane (THM) contamination was found in the municipal water supply during the 1990s. City officials have been accused of not telling the truth about the levels of THM in the Chesapeake area. Hiding test information on THM levels, failure to provide adequate warning of the high levels of THM in the water, and failure to let the public know about the THM and possible miscarriages, still births and birth defects.

Some studies link THMs (Bromodichloromethane [BDCM]), to possible stillbirths, miscarriages and birth defects, and bladder and rectal cancers. The Virginian Pilot reported that Chlorine mixes with organic materials, like algae and leaf particles, which includes chloroform and BDCM. In 1998, THM was suspected as a carcinogen and possible cause of miscarriages. Around that time, a new water treatment plant was being upgraded and reports say the levels of THM were higher than normal for about nine months. "

January 11, 2002, - Lisle, Illinois (PR Newswire)

"Chlorination of public drinking water may lead to harmful chemical byproducts such as chloroform, trihalomethanes, and haloacetic acids flowing from home taps according to a study released by the Environmental Working Group and the Illinois Public Interest Research Group.

The study reports that such byproducts in drinking water may put pregnant women at a higher risk for miscarriages, neural tube defects, and reduced fetal growth. At the same time, physicians universally recommend that pregnant women drink plenty of water.

The issue is complex. Chlorination of public drinking water ensures that consumers have safe drinking water according to the Water Quality Association. Together with filtration, chlorination is one of the greatest public health advancements of this millennium, notes WQA Executive Director Peter Censky. Unfortunately, however, chlorination does introduce potentially toxic contaminant byproducts.

There is a solution to the dilemma, however. Consumers can have the best of both worlds when it comes to their household water supply. Municipal water treatment systems must continue to use essential chlorination processes to safeguard against bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Fortunately, there are several at-home devices that cheaply and simply remove possible chlorine byproducts, Harrison notes.

In addition to safeguarding pregnant women and potential bladder cancer victims from more than 100 potentially toxic chlorination byproduct compounds, commonly available home filtration units can also remove unpleasant tastes and smells associated with chlorinated water."

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K. Culbreth, Independent Distributor


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