Accuracy, precision, usability, and cost of free chlorine residual testing methods

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Chlorine is the most widely used disinfectant worldwide, partially because residual protection is maintained after treatment. This residual is measured using colorimetric test kits varying in accuracy, precision, training required, and cost. Seven commercially available colorimeters, color wheel and test tube comparator kits, pool test kits, and test strips were evaluated for use in low-resource settings by: (1) measuring in quintuplicate 11 samples from 0.0–4.0 mg/L free chlorine residual in laboratory and natural light settings to determine accuracy and precision; (2) conducting volunteer testing where participants used and evaluated each test kit; and (3) comparing costs. Laboratory accuracy ranged from 5.1–40.5% measurement error, with colorimeters the most accurate and test strip methods the least. Variation between laboratory and natural light readings occurred with one test strip method. Volunteer participants found test strip methods easiest and color wheel methods most difficult, and were most confident in the colorimeter and least confident in test strip methods. Costs range from 3.50–444 USD for 100 tests. Application of a decision matrix found colorimeters and test tube comparator kits were most appropriate for use in low-resource settings; it is recommended users apply the decision matrix themselves, as the appropriate kit might vary by context.

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