Unsafe levels of chlorine byproducts have been detected in tap water samples taken throughout the District of Columbia, according to the Washington Post. The District uses chloramine (a less potent chlorine substitute) to treat Potomac River water, generally making it safe to drink. Since chloramine does not kill all the microbes that can colonize deep in the city’s water pipes, the city conducts a one-month “chlorine burn” annually, switching from chloramine to chlorine to address the shortcoming. Water samples were taken by the Environmental Working Group at the end of the month-long burn this spring, and 40% of the tests showed unsafe levels of chlorine pollutants. The highest levels came from tests conducted at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, at an elementary school in Northwest Washington and at the home of a pregnant woman. Some public health studies have associated similarly high levels of chlorine toxins with low birth weight and serious birth defects. D.C. officials say the high toxin levels are probably only temporary, and that D.C. water meets federal safety standards, because chlorine concentration results are averaged over an entire year for reporting purposes, and the current high levels are only a temporary spike that will eventually subside. Brita-type home water filters should remove these contaminates.
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