Don't worry about chlorine levels in D.C. water
By Fred M. Reiff
As a former public health official in both the U.S. Public Health Service and the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization directly involved in drinking-water quality, I wish to correct the misinformation in Rose Overbey’s April.25 Local Opinions article, “That chlorine smell means trouble in D.C.’s water.”
Chlorine is a vital part of the system that brings clean, germ-free water to local homes. Chlorine-based disinfectants provide a residual level, required by the Environmental Protection Agency to help protect treated water all the way to the consumer’s tap. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO, drinking water chlorination remains one of the most significant advances in public health protection.
Furthermore, Ms. Overbey’s claim about chlorine and the resulting risk of cancer or asthma is misleading. The EPA sets regulations to limit byproduct formation and establish their acceptable levels. When used to kill germs in water, chlorine creates byproducts — as do all disinfectants that produce a residual.
It’s also important to note that the D.C. Water and Sewer Agency Web site shows that during the flushing period, chlorine levels never exceeded EPA’s drinking-water standard, a level EPA has established to pose “no known or expected health risk [including] an adequate margin of safety.”
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