Researchers Discover New Toxic Byproducts in Chlorinated Water

Researchers at John Hopkins University have found previously unknown harmful by-products in chlorine-treated water, showing the need for people to remain vigilant in using water filtration systems. Here’s what you need to know about these novel byproducts and what you can do to maintain tap water quality in your home.

The potential harms of chlorine in water

Adding chlorine to public water sources is a common and inexpensive way of eliminating bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that can cause illness. As per Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, the level of chlorine in drinking water should only amount to 5 milligrams per litre (5 parts per million) or less.

Chlorination is only one way of making water safer to drink – Waters Co believes that Australians should have the option to remove chlorine from drinking water if they wish. That’s why we provide safe and effective water filtration systems that remove chemicals and contaminants in tap water.  

And despite regulations surrounding the chlorination of drinking water, researchers at John Hopkins University have found previously unknown byproducts of the chemical.

Drinking water contains phenols, naturally-occurring chemical compounds in the environment and which are commonly used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

When phenols interact with chlorine during the chlorination process, it produces many byproducts in water.

Together with his colleagues, the paper’s lead author, Carsten Prasse, used a technique widely used in toxicology to identify compounds based on reactions with proteins, DNA, and other biomolecules.

To detect the presence of reactive electrophiles, which are harmful compounds linked to a variety of diseases, the researchers specifically added N-α-acetyl-lysine to chlorinated water because it is nearly identical to lysine, an amino acid that makes up many proteins in the human body.

They let the water sit for a day before using mass spectrometry, a method used to analyse chemicals, to detect any electrophiles that reacted with lysine.

The team found two toxic and carcinogenic compounds, chloro-2-butene-1, 4-dial (BDA with chlorine) and 2-butene-1, 4-dial (BDA), in the water. These compounds have not previously been detected using other methods.

While Prasse admits that this was strictly a lab-based study and that the presence of these compounds in public water sources has yet to be evaluated, it raises questions about the safety of chlorinated water and whether water agencies are using the right tools and methods to detect novel byproducts in drinking water.

How chlorine affects the taste and odour of tap water

Aside from producing potentially harmful and yet unknown byproducts to water, the chlorination process also affects its taste and smell.  In some areas, tap water may have a tangy, chemical smell similar to bleach. Since odour and taste are inextricable, the unpleasant smell of chlorinated water can negatively impact its taste. This chlorine smell may be more pronounced when you run a hot shower.

Improving tap water quality by removing chlorine will make it easier for you to drink more fluids and stay hydrated throughout the day. Filtered water is also ideal for cooking and preparing drinks because of its neutral taste and odour. In short, it will help improve your quality of life and well-being.

How to remove chlorine from tap water

One option would be to let chlorine evaporate from water. Heating or boiling tap water will hasten the process, so if you dislike the smell and taste of chlorinated water, experts recommend slowly boiling tap water for several minutes. This kills pathogens and neutralises odours in your drinking water. 

Another factor affecting the speed of chlorine’s evaporation is surface area and the volume of water. Keeping chlorinated drinking water in a wide-mouth container, for instance, will allow chlorine molecules to dissipate at room temperature since it exposes more water surface to the air.

But if you need a faster and more convenient way of eliminating chlorine, you can always use a multi-step water filtration system that eliminates foul odours in drinking water. Choose one that contains an activated carbon filter for best results. This is one of the most reliable, and not to mention affordable, water filtration methods for maintaining water safety and cleanliness in your household. 

Waters Co offers a wide selection of bench top filters and personal jugs for clean, healthy, and great-tasting water. Visit the online store today to browse our products.