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Water Res. 2009 May;43(8):2057-92. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2009.02.011. Epub 2009 Feb 20.

Chlorination disinfection by-products, public health risk tradeoffs and me.

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Steve E Hrudey & Associates Ltd, Canmore, Canada.


Since 1974 when trihalomethanes (THMs) were first reported as disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water, there has been an enormous research effort directed at understanding how DBPs are formed in the chlorination or chloramination of drinking water, how these chlorination DBPs can be minimized and whether they pose a public health risk, mainly in the form of cancer or adverse reproductive outcomes. Driven by continuing analytical advances, the original DBPs, the THMs, have been expanded to include over 600 DBPs that have now been reported in drinking water. The historical risk assessment context which presumed cancer could be mainly attributed to exposure to environmental carcinogens played a major role in defining regulatory responses to chlorination DBPs which, in turn, strongly influenced the DBP research agenda. There are now more than 30 years of drinking water quality, treatment and health effects research, including more than 60 epidemiology studies on human populations, directed at the chlorination DBP issue. These provide considerable scope to reflect on what we know now, how our understanding has changed, what those changes mean for public health risk management overall and where we should look to better understand and manage this issue in the future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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