This guide covers the most common disinfection byproducts
(DBP) and how they get into the water. Here, we’ll inform you of the potential risks posed by various disinfection byproducts — and more importantly, the simple actions you can take to avoid the potential consequences of consuming these byproducts. With this guide, you can learn how to avoid exposure to these carcinogens, and how to make a difference in improving the water in your home for you and your family.
Because drinking water may contain a variety of viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms, those who supply public water often add disinfectants to their water to kill them. Disinfection byproducts in drinking water are the sometimes carcinogenic chemicals formed when disinfectants, such as chlorine, interact and react naturally with the organic substances in the water’s source.
The primary reason disinfectants, like chlorine, are used in water today is to prevent gastric symptoms, like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea from occurring when there are contaminants in the drinking water.
- The nature of the water itself.
- The types of treatments used to remove organic matter and other particles from the water.
- The types of disinfectants used to treat microorganisms in the water.
- The concentration of disinfectants used in the process.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chlorine is the chemical most commonly used
to disinfect water today. It’s history as a water disinfectant dates back to 1850
when it was used to disinfect the water supply in London during the cholera epidemic. It has been widely used for water disinfection and purification since the early 1900s
. However, recent questions related to the effects of chlorine in water have many questioning how advisable it is to continue using chlorine for this purpose.
You can be exposed to disinfection byproducts in water through these three ways.
- Drinking water. On average, a little less than half of an individual’s intake of plain drinking water is tap water consumed at their home (1.8 cups). Tap water can contain disinfection byproducts. Some people claim they can taste the difference when disinfection byproducts are present, but many people continue drinking water contaminated with DBPs regardless.
- Absorbing DBPs through your skin. You can absorb disinfection byproducts through the skin while bathing, showering, or swimming in a public pool. The average person drinks less than one-half gallon of water daily despite using 20 gallons in a 10-minute shower and 36 gallons in a full bathtub. The longer your shower or bath, the greater your exposure will be.