Water Sanitation Health

Chemical hazards in drinking-water

The WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (GDWQ) cover a broad range of chemicals that can affect drinking-water quality. However, not all chemicals included in the GDWQ will be relevant within a country. Only a small proportion of chemicals have been shown to cause adverse health effects in humans as a consequence of exposure to excess quantities through drinking-water.

The GDWQ include facts sheets (Chapter 12) [pdf, 266kb] and comprehensive review documents for many individual chemicals. For many of these chemicals, guideline values are derived. These documents may be accessed through the following alphabetical index of chemicals. Summary tables of guideline values are also available in the GDWQ (Annex 3) [pdf, 195Kb].

Guidance on management approaches for chemicals is presented in Chapter 8 [pdf 569kb] of the GDWQ. This chapter also includes background information on the approaches taken to derive guideline values and analytical achievability.

Other publications of interest:

Chemical safety of drinking-water: Assessing priorities for risk management.

Protecting groundwater for health: Managing the quality of drinking-water sources.

Protecting surface water for health: Identifying, assessing and managing drinking-water quality risks in surface water catchments (in preparation).

Water Safety Plans (WSPs).