How to Get Rid of Chloroform in Your Drinking Water

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Chloroform is a disinfection byproduct (DBP) formed when chlorine is used to disinfect and treat tap water or well water. Chloroform is one of many contaminants classed as trihalomethanes (THM), which is a group of contaminants that are formed as a result of water treatment processes. 

Chloroform can be legally found contaminating water in nearly every single state. Read on to learn about the risks of drinking water that has a high chloroform concentration, why many popular filters can’t fully protect you, and how to easily get proven protection from chloroform.

Chloroform Is A Result Of Water Disinfection Treatments

The chloroform found in your water is a byproduct of water treatment processes; in this case, chloroform is a result of using chlorine as a disinfectant when treating tap or well water. The chlorine interacts with naturally-occurring materials in water to form dangerous chemical byproducts that threaten your health.

Essentially, chlorine is a poisonous substance that kills bacteria and other pathogens that can cause diseases. Chlorine is added into water systems to counteract the bacteria that get into the water supply from rivers and lakes that have been contaminated with wastewater, runoff from animal farms, and from bacteria that travel through cracks and microleaks in old pipes and aging water infrastructure. 

Once formed, chloroform doesn’t stick to soil, so it can easily travel through soil into groundwater and contaminate the water supply that way. 

The disinfection process results in DBPs – like chloroform – that are listed as “probable human carcinogens” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On its own, chloroform is a colorless, slightly pungent liquid with a slightly sweet taste. However, it is typically found in small amounts in drinking water. At these levels, it is virtually odorless and tasteless; you won’t be able to detect chloroform in your water without testing a water sample.

From The EPA: Chloroform Is An Extremely Hazardous Substance

When disinfectants are added to treat water, it results in the formation of DBPs that are linked to problems during pregnancy, increase risk of cancer, and may cause organ damage, namely to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. 

Short term exposure to chloroform may cause central nervous system depression, while prolonged exposure may cause more serious health issues including hepatitis, jaundice, depression, brain damage, and an increase in cancer, particularly in the kidneys and liver.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a study showed that people who consumed chlorinated water showed a link between the chloroform in the water and the increased risk of cancer in the colon and urinary bladder. 

The EPA considers chloroform as an “extremely hazardous substance.”  Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the EPA have all determined that chloroform could be considered a carcinogen, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer in humans.

Chloroform Is Present In 98% Of Water Systems

Historically, chloroform was used as an anesthetic during surgery before it was discovered to be a toxic substance. Now, chloroform can also be found at paper mills, hazardous waste sites, and landfills where it can also sneak into water supplies if mismanaged by these sites.

Approximately 98% of tap water is treated with chlorine. The amount of chlorine used to disinfect water supplies constantly changes depending on emerging contaminants, aging infrastructure, and natural disasters. As a result, an increase in chlorine use – or any other disinfectant – can also increase chloroform concentration. 

Now, there are a plethora of different ways you could be exposed to this contaminant: the food and beverages you consume could be made with water that contains chloroform, the air you breathe could have high levels, it could be absorbed through skin contact, and, of course, through your tap water. 

It’s important to note that chloroform can easily enter your body through skin, so be aware of the water you are using to shower and bathe. Additionally, chloroform evaporates quickly in the air so if your shower water is hot enough, chloroform could potentially evaporate and you would be breathing it in.

Chloroform Is Legally Allowed In Your Drinking Water

The EPA, the organization responsible for regulating tap water, does not set limits for chloroform as an individual contaminant. Instead, they set limits for THMs as a whole. The EPA allows up to 80 parts per billion (ppb) of THMs in water. 

While there are no federal regulations for chloroform, the EPA has set a non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goal, which is defined as the level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected health risk, for chloroform at 70 ppb. Furthermore, the EPA requires that major chloroform spills must be reported to the National Response Center. 

That being said, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a group that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of drinking water pollutants and environmental health, has suggested a Health Guideline of 0.4 ppb for chloroform to protect against the risk of cancer.

Everyone Is At Risk

With all the known risks associated with high chloroform levels in drinking water, it may come as a surprise that chloroform is a common contaminant found in 46 states and affects upwards of 220 million people, with California, Texas, and New York being the states with the highest contamination levels. 

To break it down, over 29 million people in California, 22 million people in Texas, 18 million in New York, 12 million in Illinois, 9.5 million in Pennsylvania, and 9 million in Ohio are the most vulnerable to high levels of chloroform in their water.

How To Protect Yourself Against Chloroform In Your Drinking Water

Now that we’ve discussed the impact of chloroform contamination in your drinking water, let’s take a look at how to protect yourself and your loved ones from drinking contaminated water. Fortunately for us, chloroform and other DBPs can be removed by home filtration systems.

Effectiveness Of Carbon Filters

Most mainstream water filtration systems use carbon filters to treat water. Carbon filters purify water through adsorption, which is the process of adhering contaminants to the filter. In this case, granulated carbon filters pull and attract DBPs to the media during the filtering process. 

Reverse Osmosis Gets Rid Of Everything

Another popular method of eliminating contaminants in water is through reverse osmosis (RO), which is a filtration method that forces water through a semipermeable membrane that consists of a series of filters that essentially traps contaminants. Reverse osmosis systems are usually made of several filters, including a sediment filter, a carbon filter, and a semi-permeable membrane.

While these types of systems are highly effective, RO tends to remove everything from water, including healthy nutrients and minerals leaving you with water that is “dead” or “tasteless.” An added drawback is that the RO process is a wasteful method as 75% of water is used as wastewater to flush the contaminants from the system. 

Distillation Is Not A Time Efficient Alternative

In the distillation process, the water is intensely boiled to the point of evaporation with most contaminants remaining in the boiling chamber since they can’t be vaporized. The steam is then separated and condensed to form purified water. While an effective method, distillation is a lengthy process and can take up to 6 hours to purify a gallon of water. 

Similar to RO, you’re left with “dead" water that can taste “flat” or “plain”since distillation removes a number of contaminants and impurities, as well as beneficial minerals and nutrients. 

Boiling Water Can Make Chloroform Contamination Worst

Boiling water does not remove chloroform in your water. While it may seem like an effective way to purify your water, boiling can increase the concentration of chloroform in your water. 

Bottled Water Can Contain Be Just As Dangerous As Tap Water

While the EPA regulates public drinking water, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water since it is considered as food. Oftentimes, the FDA regulations for bottled water will match the EPA’s regulations for your tap water. 

In other words, there is a chance that your bottled water can contain the same amount of contaminants as your tap water and it is possible for bottled water to come from sources that use chlorine to disinfect before the bottling process.

Get Proven Protection With Clearly Filtered

The good news: every water filtration system we offer is tested to NSF standards and will protect you and your loved ones from chloroform contamination so you never have to worry about the dangerous contaminants lurking in your water. 

Our Water Pitcher with Affinity Filtration Technology boasts a removal rate of more than 99.8% of chloroform in your water while our Filtered Water Bottles remove more than 99.9%. Our Universal Inline Fridge Filter and our 3-Stage Under the Sink Water Filter System both remove 98.4% of chloroform. 

Whether you want clean water on the go or you want to ensure your whole household has safe water for drinking and cooking, rest assured that Clearly Filtered has got you covered. 

If you want proven protection from chloroform and hundreds of other common dangers, upgrade to Clearly Filtered today to get easy access to clean, safe drinking water. There’s nothing else out there that ensures your water is this clean, safe, and healthy, so you can trust every drop.


1. Public Health Statement for Chloroform

2. 220 Million Americans Could Have Chloroform in Their Tap Water

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