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Dibromochloromethane

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Dibromochloromethane (also called Chlorodibromomethane) is a colorless to yellow, heavy, nonburnable liquid with a sweetish odor. This chemical is a possible contaminant of drinking water that has been chlorinated to kill bacteria and viruses that could cause serious waterborne infectious diseases. Dibromochloromethane may form when chlorine reacts with other naturally occurring substances in water, such as decomposing plant material. Plants in the ocean also produce small amounts of this chemical.

This chemical is found mainly in water that originally came from surface sources, such as rivers and lakes. Springs and deep drilled wells usually contain very little of this substance that react with chlorine to form these chemicals; therefore, well and spring water is less likely a source of dibromochloromethane than water from a reservoir (artificial lake). The amount of dibromochloromethane in drinking water can change considerably from day to day, depending on the source, temperature, amount of plant material in the water, amount of chlorine added, and a variety of other factors.

Dibromochloromethane (Chlorodibromomethane) was used in the past to make other chemicals such as fire extinguisher fluids, spray can propellants, refrigerator fluid, and pesticides. It is now only used on a small scale in laboratories. In the environment, dibromochloromethane is not found as a pure liquid, but instead, it is found either dissolved in water or evaporated into air as a gas. 

Exposure

You are most likely to be exposed to dibromochloromethane by drinking water that has been treated with chlorine. Usually, the levels in chlorinated drinking water are between 1 and 10 parts dibromochloromethane per billion parts of water (ppb). These are levels that are known to be without adverse health effects. Dibromochloromethane has also been detected in chlorinated swimming pools.

Exposure can occur at a swimming pool, by breathing dibromochloromethane that has evaporated into the air, or by uptake from the water through the skin. Dibromochloromethane is not likely to be found in food.

Health Effects

The effects dibromochloromethane on your health depend largely on the amount you take into your body and the duration of exposure. In general, the more you take in, the greater the chance that an effect will occur. The amount of dibromochloromethane taken by mouth that would affect humans is not known, but is probably similar to bromoform.

Some studies in animals indicate that exposure to high doses of bromoform or dibromochloromethane may also lead to liver and the kidney injury within a short period of time. Exposure to low levels of bromoform or dibromochloromethane do not appear to seriously affect the brain, liver, or kidneys. Other animal studies suggest that typical bromoform or dibromochloromethane exposures do not pose a high risk of affecting the chance of becoming pregnant or harming an unborn baby. However, studies in animals indicate that long-term intake of either bromoform or dibromochloromethane can cause liver and kidney cancer. Although cancer in humans cannot be definitely attributed to these chemicals, it is an effect of special concern, since many people are exposed to low levels of bromoform and dibromochloromethane in chlorinated drinking water.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that bromoform and dibromochloromethane are not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity. The EPA classified bromoform as a probable human carcinogen and dibromochloromethane as a possible human carcinogen.

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