Haloacetic Acids in Drinking Water | Health Risks

Haloacetic acids are byproducts of the chlorine used in municipal water filtration systems to treat drinking water, and wastewater. These harmful toxic acids form when chlorine breaks down organic matter like bacteria. Practically all US tap water and most well water is contaminated by haloacetic acids to some degree. The US EPA regulates the level of haloacetic acids in water supplies to 60 parts per billion, but violations of that standard are common. If haloacetic acid is present in your tap water at the Federal limit, your risk of getting cancer from it is 1 in 10,000.

haloacetic acid water pollution map

States with the worst haloacetic acid pollution (source: Textmed)

Health Risks from Haloacetic Acid Contamination

There are 5 different kinds of haloacetic acids, they referred to as HAA5. All 5 of these acids are harmful to your health: monochloroacetic acid, dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, monobromoacetic acid, and dibromoacetic acid.

Short term health effects: It’s very unlikely that you would be exposed to enough HAA5 from your drinking water to have any short-term impact on your health. If you are exposed to high levels of HAA5, you are likely to experience difficulty breathing, stinging eyes, and/or irritated skin.

Long term health effects: If you are exposed to the EPA limit of 60 parts per billion over an extended period (10 years or longer) you run an increased risk of getting cancer. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable, because HAA5 exposure has been linked to low birth weight and birth defects.

How to filter haloacetic acid from water

Activated carbon filters are effective against haloacetic acid in water, so most any quality filter system (except water softeners) should protect you from drinking it. However, you are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of haloacetic acid in your shower than you are from your drinking water. This is because haloacetic acids vaporize in hot water, so they can turn your shower into a gas chamber. A shower filter is your best bet for protecting yourself in the shower. Any shower filter designed to filter chlorine will also filter haloacetic acids.

The best protection is a whole home filtration system, since this kind of filter system prevents haloacetic acid contamination from entering your home.

Filter Systems Effective Against Haloacetic Acids

    • Water Ionizers – Life’s Vitamin C filtration is the most effective against haloacetic acids

    • Filter pitchers – Such as The Pitcher of Life which is effective for filtering chlorine

    • Shower filters – Protects you from haloacetic acid vapors in the shower

  • Whole home filters – Keep haloacetic acids out of your home water supply

Fact: Water softeners DO NOT filter haloacetic acids or treat water pollution in any way

Haloacetic acid health effects – not well understood

The most compelling reason you should be concerned about haloacetic acid contamination in your drinking water is that the health effects of haloacetic acids are not well understood. All of the health research that has been done on haloacetic acids has been done on animals. Despite the clear threat to health that these chemicals represent, no human studies have been conducted. Despite the lack of human studies, the EPA does recognize haloacetic acids as potential carcinogens. As the old saying goes: “Better safe than sorry”.

Worried that your tap water may be killing you? Call us for a free water quality consultation at 877-959-7977

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