Health significance of chlorination byproducts in drinking water: The Houston experience: A continuation study

Ashley Annaliese Francis, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Houston, Texas, once obtained all its drinking water from underground sources. However, in 1853, the city began supplementing its water from the surface source Lake Houston. This created differences in the exposure to disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in different parts of Houston. Trihalomethanes (THMs) are the most common DBP and are useful indicators of DBPs in treated drinking water. This study examines the relationship between THMs in chlorinated drinking water and the incidence of bladder cancer in Houston. Methods. Individual bladder cancer deaths, from 1975 to 2004, were assigned to four surface water exposure areas in Houston utilizing census tracts—area A used groundwater the longest, area B used treated lake water the longest, area C used treated lake water the second longest, and area D used a combination of groundwater and treated lake water. Within each surface water exposure area mortality rates were calculated in 5 year intervals by four race-gender categories. Linear regression models were fitted to the bladder cancer mortality rates over the entire period of available data (1990–2004). Results. A decrease in bladder cancer mortality was observed amongst white males in area B (p = 0.030), white females in area A (p = 0.008), non-white males in area D (p = 0.003), and non-white females in areas A and B (p = 0.002 & 0.001). Bladder cancer mortality differed by race-gender and time (p ≤ 0.001 & p ≤ 0.001), but not by surface water exposure area (p = 0.876). Conclusion. The relationship between bladder cancer mortality and the four surface water exposure areas (signifying THM exposure) was insignificant. This result could be attributable to Houston controlling for THMs starting in the early 1980’s by using chloramine as a secondary disinfectant in the drinking water purification process.

Subject Area

Environmental Health|Water Resource Management

Recommended Citation

Francis, Ashley Annaliese, "Health significance of chlorination byproducts in drinking water: The Houston experience: A continuation study" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474798.