The number of communities where disinfection by-products can soon rise across the country.
This is not due to the fact that drinking water supplies or infrastructures have somewhat deteriorated.
Instead, Health Canada has confirmed that it is currently reviewing its standard of acceptable chemicals in drinking water distribution systems when chlorine is used as a disinfectant.
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The chemical reaction between chlorine and the natural organic substance present in water sources can result in by-products such as trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAA). Long-term exposure to these by-products, whether it is drinking, inhaling, or absorbing the skin, has been associated with cancer, reproductive and other health problems.
During the last week, Western Star has presented a series of stories from a number of communities over the THM and HAA levels found in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is estimated that about one third of the province's public drinking resources have THM levels exceeding the current Health Canadian standard or considered to be too high HAA levels.
The county's most recent water management survey shows that nearly fifty of the water supply sources tested have 164 excessive THM levels and 158 of them have excessive HAA levels.
It should be noted that some communities have more than one tested water source.
Health Canada's current drinking water quality guidelines for THMs and HAAs were published in 2006 and 2008. They set acceptable levels of THM at 100 micrograms per liter of water and acceptable levels for HAA values of 80 micrograms per liter of water.
In one of the recent articles, engineering professor Tahir Husain, who has worked on the development of technology for the removal of these by-products from watercourses, said Health Canada sought to further reduce these standards.
Husain said that Canada is likely to lower approved levels closer to US prices. The US standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keep 80 micrograms per liter of water at an acceptable THM level and have set acceptable levels for HAA in 60 micrograms per liter of water.
The West Bank called for an interview with officials from federal officials. Nobody became available but Health Canada confirmed it in the email that it regularly monitors new scientific and international activities to develop new drinking water guidelines or update existing guidelines as needed.
"Health Canada is currently researching new research in the field of THM and HAA, including a science that reported the US EPA standard," says Health Canada. "Once the review has been completed, the Federal Provincial Drinking Water Committee will use this information to determine whether updates are required."
If the Canadian standard is lowered to match the American standard, it adds more entities to a list of those that do not meet Health Canada's acceptable disinfection by-products measurements.
According to the latest round of monitoring of public drinking water in Newfoundland and Labrador, 27 other water courses do not meet the American standard and 33 more water sources would be considered excessive in the HAA readings on the basis of the south-bound criteria.