Keywords: chlorination, disinfection by-products, DBPs, natural organic matter, NOM, trihalomethanes, THMs, health effects, Australia, drinking water, water quality, water treatment
Health effects of disinfection by-products in Australian drinking waters
The disinfection of drinking water has greatly diminished the occurrence of diseases known to be caused by water-borne pathogens, but technological advances subsequent to the initial discovery of chloroform in 1974 have enabled the identification of a plethora of Disinfection By-Products (DBPs), particularly trihalomethanes (THMs), that may have injurious health effects on humans. DBPs are widely believed to be associated with bladder, rectal and colon cancers as well as adverse reproductive outcomes such as neural tube disorders. An outline of the disinfectants commonly used in the treatment of drinking water and the Natural Organic Matter (NOM) it reacts with to form DBPs is provided here, and the deficiencies in the current knowledge regarding likely human health effects are briefly discussed.