Life-saving drinking water disinfectants have a “dark side”

Disinfecting drinking water against pathogens is necessary, but by-products from the process are a ubiquitous — and likely growing — problem across the U.S. Solutions exist, though.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Maillefer/
Susan Richardson (right) and graduate student Jiafu Li stand next to a machine that allows them to quantify trace levels of disinfection by-products in drinking water and identify new ones at the same time.
Click here for an interactive version of this chart on the Environmental Working Group website.

Rather than continuing on the toxic treadmill of replacing one potentially toxic chemical for another, a more effective solution may be to focus upstream in the treatment process — such as keeping organics out of the system in the first place.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992, and is still one of relatively few full-scale plants that uses the technology. Courtesy of Greater Cincinnati Water Works. | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.

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