What is TTHM & Why is It In Municipal Water?

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what is tthm

What is TTHM & Why is It In Municipal Water?

People don’t usually think about their water or local water supply, unless it’s time for their annual water testing by Aqua Pump or signs of a water emergency prompt them to utilize Aqua Pump’s 24 hour emergency service. While they are driving through their neighborhoods, they may notice a person enjoying a refreshing glass of water or kids playing in a sprinkler, but they probably aren’t contemplating the intricacies of the municipal water system that makes such occurrences possible. Unfortunately, the presence of TTHM compounds, as well as PFAS and other water contaminants, are becoming an increasing problem in water supplies across the country. Here, we explain what you need to know about TTHM (total trihalomethanes) and how to reduce your exposure to this problematic group of compounds.

What is TTHM?

TTHM (or Total Trihalomethanes) are a group of disinfection byproducts that form when water disinfectants (such as chlorine) react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in water. Unfortunately for us, TTHMs are colorless, volatile, and potentially toxic chemicals that can evaporate out of water into the air, but can be found in chlorinated drinking water. The four significant TTHMs potentially found in disinfected drinking water are:

  • chloroform.
  • bromodichloromethane.
  • dibromochloromethane.
  • bromoform.

Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the concentrations of TTHMs in drinking water to ensure their levels are within safe limits. For individuals looking to learn more, then you may find references to THM (or Trihalomethanes), which generally refers to one of the broader TTHMs. From a regulatory perspective, the EPA generally requires municipalities to issue public notice when the overall levels of TTHMs in their water supply exceed the maximum contaminant levels.

What to Know About TTHM and Municipal Water?

In terms of potential water dangers, most people think about general contaminants like bacteria or potentially growing niche issues such as microplastics and PFAs. Most consumers are not very familiar with TTHMs and likely don’t pay much attention to their municipal water report that is issued throughout most towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts. However, these local water reports are very important in understanding the quality of your local water supply. For example, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection explains that TTHMs are in the municipal water supply because they result from water treatments intended to ensure the safety of water for use and consumption. Chlorine and other disinfectants are often used to kill off bacteria or other contaminants in the water supply. A consequence of this treatment is TTHMs, since these compounds form when the disinfectants react with natural organic matter in water, like leaves or algae. Unfortunately, there are some major health problems that have been linked to prolonged exposure to high levels of TTHMs, such as:

  • cancer (specifically of the bladder and colon).
  • birth defects and other reproductive problems.
  • liver and kidney issues.

In addition to the reactions between the disinfecting chemicals as well as the quality of the sourced water and types of organic matter, factors like water temperature and pH level can impact the formation of these compounds. A greater amount of TTHMs may also be present in emergency scenarios where parts of the water system have broken down or when a water contamination problem occurs. Fortunately, water treatment plants have national and state guidelines to follow in terms of TTHM levels. They are also required to test these levels regularly and take measures to reduce the formation of these problematic byproducts during routine treatments.

How to Reduce Potential Exposure to TTHM and Other Water Concerns?

Municipal water programs have guidelines to follow when it comes to the regulation and monitoring of TTHMs in the water supply. However, there are also measures that homeowners can take to protect themselves and their loved ones from TTHM exposure, which can happen through direct water consumption, eating foods prepared with water or transmission through air or skin.

  • Routine Water Testing: Yes, your municipal water supplier is responsible for adhering to state and national treatment and testing requirements regarding TTHM levels as well as ensuring that the water supply is safe from other dangerous contaminants. Water quality reports can also be requested from your local water provider. However, whether you use municipal water or the water from your own private well location, conducting routine water testing on the water for your individual home can provide more insight into the specifics of your water and greater peace of mind, as this assessment can help determine any improvements that may be needed for your water or supply system.
  • Water filtration installations: Bottled water may seem like one obvious solution when there is a concern about the TTHM levels in water. However, this option can become extremely expensive and may not address potential exposure as fully as a water purification filter or whole house water filtration system can. A whole house water filtration system, for example, may not only improve the safety and quality of drinking and cooking water but also mitigate TTHM exposure through showering and other personal hygiene practices. Removing approximately 95% or more of the contaminants in water, a reverse osmosis system may be an excellent option. Confirm with your water filtration provider that any filtration option you elect can address your TTHM concern.

Remember: any measures that you can take to reduce or eliminate the presence of TTHMs and other contaminants in your water can make a difference! As noted in research provided through the National Library of Medicine, it’s typically only the long-term exposure to elevated levels of TTHMs that have been found to cause health issues.

The best way to protect your water and your loved ones is to stay informed and take action to ensure its quality and safety. Now is the time to explore your options for reducing or eliminating your exposure to TTHMs and other contaminants with help from the Aqua Pump Company. Contact us to discuss water filtration options or access emergency water service.

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