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Drinking Water Fact Sheet: Disinfection Byproducts

Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) form when chlorine or other disinfectants react with organic material (from the decomposition of leaves and other vegetation) naturally found in drinking water sources. The use of chlorine to disinfect drinking water has been hailed as one of the major public health breakthroughs in the 20th century, resulting in a large decrease in mortality from waterborne infectious disease. However, in 1976 the National Cancer Institute published data showing that chloroform, a chlorination byproduct, caused cancer in rodents. There is now evidence that disinfection—though pivotal in fighting infectious disease—may also result in cancer and other health risks for humans. 

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In the Spotlight

  • September 15, 2016
    Boston Symposium
    A one-day Symposium to examine the catastrophic public health consequences of climate change and the ways that climate change will increase the risk of conflict, including nuclear war.