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Cadernos de Saúde Pública

On-line version ISSN 1678-4464Print version ISSN 0102-311X


MEYER, Sheila T.. Chlorine use in water disinfection, trihalomethane formation, and potential risks to public health. Cad. Saúde Pública [online]. 1994, vol.10, n.1, pp.99-110. ISSN 1678-4464.

Before the development of the germ theory relating microorganisms with disease transmission (1880) people believed that diseases were transmitted by odours. Water and sewage disinfection emerged as a method for elimination of odours. There are many disinfecting agents, but chlorine is the main product used to disinfect water. Organic compounds present in water that is chlorinated can result in the formation of trihalomethanes. The latter are basically one atom of carbon, one of hydrogen, and three of a halogen (chlorine, bromine, or iodine). These are considered carcinogenic compounds and their presence in drinking water should therefore be avoided. Epidemiological research has shown an association between trihalomethane concentration and cancer morbidity and mortality for some types of carcinoma. Nevertheless, there may be more risk than benefit involved in replacing chlorine with other disinfecting agents, since the incidence of water-borne diseases only dropped after water chlorination became a routine procedure.

Keywords : Water Treatment; Chlorine; Trihalomethanes.

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