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Scientist develops method to find toxic chemicals in drinking water

Most consumers of drinking water in the United States know that chemicals are used in the treatment processes to ensure the water is safe to drink. But they might not know that the use of some of these chemicals, such as chlorine, can also lead to the formation of unregulated toxic byproducts.

Johns Hopkins Environmental Health and Engineering Prof. Carsten Prasse proposes a new approach to assessing drinking water quality that could result in cleaner, safer taps.

"We are exposing people in the United States to these chemical compounds without knowing what they even do," Prasse said. "I'm not saying that chlorination is not important in keeping our drinking water safe. But there are unintended consequences that we have to address and that the public needs to know about. We could do more than what we're doing."

Among disinfection byproducts, only 11 compounds are currently regulated in drinking water, according to his paper published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. This is in stark contrast to the more than 700 disinfection byproducts that have so far been identified in chlorinated drinking water, he said.

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