Exposure of 5 percent of Europe’s annual bladder cancer burden to contaminants in drinking water

Every year, over 6,500 blood cells, almost 5 percent of all European cases, can be attributed to exposure in drinking water to trihalomethane (THMs). This is a conclusion in a large study conducted on the presence of these chemical compounds in tap water in 26 EU countries by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a “la Caixa”-supported center.

The unintended result of water disinfection is trihalomethanes. Previous research reported a correlation between long-term THM exposure, whether by ingestion, inhalation, or dermal uptake, and an increased risk of bladder cancer.

Recent data on trihalomethanes in European municipal tap water have been analyzed and the burden for the bladder carcinogenesis of exposure to these compounds estimated by the authors of the new study published in Environmental Health Perspective.

The researchers sent questions to the municipal water quality organizations seeking information on the source, distribution network, and water treatment plant concentrations of total and individual trihalomethanes. Additional data from other sources have been collected.

In 26 countries of the EU, the trihalomethanes data was collected from 2005 to 2018, with less than 75% of the population, except for Bulgaria and Romania.

There were substantial differences between countries in the findings. The mean level of trihalomethanes was well under the permissible limit for EU drinking water-11,7 μg / L vs. 100 μg / L— but in nine countries (Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom), the maximum reported concentration had been much higher than the maximum limit for drinking water.

A statistical calculation relates the total concentration of trihalomethanes to international knowledge about the bladder cancer incidence rates available in each country estimates the number of cases of attributable bladder cancer.

In total, 6,561 cases of bladder cancer in the European Union are estimated to be attributed to exposure to trihalomethanes per year. Among countries, there have been significant variations. Spain and the United Kingdom were most often due to the high incidence of bladder cancer and its large population, with 1,482 and 1,356, respectively.