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Research links water disinfection byproducts to adverse health effects
Date:10/24/2011

University of Illinois scientists report the first identification of a cellular mechanism linked to the toxicity of a major class of drinking water disinfection byproducts. This study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, suggests a possible connection to adverse health effects, including neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's.

"I'm not implying that drinking disinfected water will give you Alzheimer's," said Michael Plewa, lead scientist and professor of genetics in the U of I Department of Crop Sciences. "Certainly, the disinfection of drinking water was one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century. But the adverse effects of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) that are unintentionally formed during this process are causing concerns as researchers unveil their toxicity."

More than 600 DBPs have been discovered. Although researchers know some DBPs are toxic, little biological information is available on the majority of these water contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates only 11 of these DBPs, he said.

Plewa's laboratory investigated the biological mechanism, or the cellular target that leads to toxicity, in the second-most prevalent DBP class generated in disinfected water haloacetic acids (HAAs).

"The EPA has regulated HAAs for nearly 15 years. However, we did not know how they caused toxicity before this study," he said. "Now that we've uncovered the mechanism for HAAs, we can make sense of past data that can lead to new studies relating to adverse pregnancy outcomes, different types of cancer, and neurological dysfunction."

Plewa believes this will assist the EPA in establishing regulations based on science. Their research will also help the water treatment community develop new methods to prevent the generation of the most toxic DBPs.

"It's fairly simple," Plewa said. "To increase the health benefits of disinfected water, we must
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Contact: Jennifer Shike
jshike@illinois.edu
217-244-0888
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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