Type of disinfectant in drinking water and patterns of mortality in Massachusetts

Environ Health Perspect. 1986 Nov;69:275-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8669275.


Chlorination has been the major strategy for disinfection of drinking water in the United States. Concern about the potential health effects of the reaction by-products of chlorine has prompted use of alternative strategies. One such method is chloramination, a treatment process that does not appear to have carcinogenic by-products, but may have less potent biocidal activity than chlorination. We examined the patterns of mortality of residents in Massachusetts who died between 1969 and 1983 and lived in communities using drinking water that was disinfected either by chlorine or chloramine. Comparison of type of disinfectant among 51,645 cases of deaths due to selected cancer sites and 214,988 controls who died from cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, or pulmonary disease, or from lymphatic cancer showed small variation in the patterns of mortality. Bladder cancer was moderately associated with residence at death in a chlorinated community (mortality odds ratio = 1.7, 95% confidence interval = 1.3-2.2) in a logistic regression analysis using controls who died from lymphatic cancer. A slight excess of deaths from pneumonia and influenza was observed in communities whose residents drank chloraminated water compared to residents from chlorinated communities, as well as to all Massachusetts residents (standardized mortality ratio = 118, 95% confidence interval = 116-120 for chloraminated communities, and standardized mortality ratio = 98, 95% confidence interval = 95-100 for chlorinated communities). These results are intended to be preliminary and crude descriptions of the relationship under study.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chloramines / adverse effects
  • Chlorine / adverse effects
  • Disinfectants / adverse effects*
  • Disinfection / methods
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Water Supply / analysis*


  • Chloramines
  • Disinfectants
  • Chlorine
  • chloramine