Chlorobenzene in Water (What You Need to Know in 2024)

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Chlorobenzene is a volatile organic compound that’s used in the agricultural, manufacturing, and automotive industries. This chemical may be found in surface water and groundwater supplies and has several known health effects.

Here, you’ll find information about chlorobenzene’s origins, its potential health effects in water, how to test for chlorobenzene, and more.

๐Ÿ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Chlorobenzene is a VOC that’s used as an automotive degreaser, a solvent in pesticides, and an ingredient in rubber, adhesive, glues, paints, cleaning chemicals, and more.
  • This drinking water contaminant gets into water through runoff, soil seepage, improper waste disposal, and leaks and spills.
  • Chlorobenzene is colorless and is unlikely to have a taste when present in small quantities in drinking water.

โ” What Is Chlorobenzene In Water?

Chlorobenzene, or monochlorobenzene, is a volatile organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5Cl, that has numerous uses in the automotive, agricultural, and manufacturing industries.

It’s primarily used as a solvent in pesticides used to control or kill unwanted pests. Other uses of chlorobenzene include as a degreaser for automotive parts, and as a solvent in paints, glues, adhesives, cleaning chemicals, drugs, and dry-cleaning.

Chlorobenzene was also used to make DDT and phenol in the past, but these substances are now banned or restricted in most parts of the world.

You might hear chlorobenzene referred to as one of its trade names, including chlorbenzol, benzene chloride, phenyl chloride, and tetrosin SP.

Ddt pesticides containing chlorobenzene

๐Ÿšฐ How Does Chlorobenzene Get Into Water?

The main ways that chlorobenzene can enter water supplies are through soil seepage and runoff.

Chlorobenzene is a liquid and can’t bind to soil, which means it’s more likely to linger on soil surfaces and get transported into surface water supplies via rainwater, snow, and flooding.

The chemical might also seep through the earth and enter underground aquifers and springs, contaminating groundwater supplies.

Discharge from chemical manufacturing facilities is another principal cause of chlorobenzene in our drinking water supplies. A CDC report highlighted research from 2018 that estimated around 762 pounds of chlorobenzene entered surface water from 69 domestic processing and manufacturing facilities within the year.

Other possible causes of chlorobenzene in water include chemical leaks and spills, and runoff from hazardous waste sites and landfill.

Water treatment plants aren’t usually equipped with the technology required to remove chlorobenzene from water, meaning that low levels of this contaminant are often found in water supplies in the US.

Chlorobenzene waste water discharge from a chemical manufacturing facility

๐Ÿ”Ž How To Know If Your Water Contains Chlorobenzene

On its own, chlorobenzene has a slightly sweet, bitter, almond-like flavor. However, you’re unlikely to taste this chemical if trace amounts are diluted in your water supply.

We’ve listed some of the more effective methods of determining whether or not your water contains chlorobenzene below.

Check Your Water Quality Report

This is the quickest and easiest way to find out your water’s chlorobenzene concentration if you’re on a municipal water supply.

Search for your water utility on Google, followed by “Water Quality Report” or “Consumer Confidence Report”.

All water utilities are required by the EPA to produce annual Water Quality Reports that list the contaminants detected in their testing. If chlorobenzene was detected in your water, you should find data on the average amount and the range detected in your Report.

Test Your Water

You might want to test your water for chlorobenzene. This is an option to consider if you get your water from a private source that isn’t treated by a water utility, or if you prefer to get your own data to clarify or confirm your water utility’s test resorts.

We’ve shared more information on how to test your water for chlorobenzene later on in this article.

Getting water sample from faucet to test for chlorobenzene

๐Ÿšฑ Is Chlorobenzene In Drinking Water Dangerous?

Chlorobenzene is considered a dangerous drinking water contaminant because it has numerous known health conditions.

According to an EPA report, some of the potential health effects of being exposed to chlorobenzene are:

  • Neurotoxicity, including numbness, muscle spasms, and increased sensation
  • Headaches, eye irritation, and upper respiratory tract irritation
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Potential reproductive effects

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the possible health effects of chlorobenzene. For instance, the chemical is currently not classed as carcinogenic (cancer-causing), but only limited studies have been conducted to prove whether or not chlorobenzene might increase our cancer risk.

๐Ÿ“‰ Is Chlorobenzene In Tap Water Regulated?

Chlorobenzene is currently regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which, under the Primary Drinking Water Standards, establishes legal limits for contaminants with known health effects in water.

The EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level for chlorobenzene, or the maximum amount that can be present in public drinking water supplies, is 100 PPB (parts per billion).

That means, if chlorobenzene is detected in a water source that’s being supplied to the public, the concentration of the contaminant must be reduced to within 100 PPB in accordance with EPA regulations.

The Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for chlorobenzene is the same: 100 PPB. So, the EPA believes that this chemical shouldn’t have any health effects if it’s ingested in concentrations of 100 PPB or less in drinking water.

Not all organizations agree with this decision. The Environmental Working Group, an activist group that’s known for its research and advocacy in the areas of drinking water pollutants and toxic chemicals, has established its own non-enforceable Health Guideline of 70 PPB for chlorobenzene – the “actual” maximum amount that the EWG believes to pose no significant health risk in drinking water.

Testing water for chlorobenzene

๐Ÿงช How To Test For Chlorobenzene In Tap Water

Chlorobenzene isn’t a well-known contaminant, so it’s not likely to be detected in a standard DIY test kit.

Instead, you’ll probably have to pay for a laboratory test for this contaminant. You might find tests for VOCs, including chlorobenzene, or you might find a laboratory that sells singular tests for chlorobenzene only.

Chlorobenzene water testing with tap score

To test your water for chlorobenzene:

  1. Choose your preferred test, order it, and wait for it to be delivered to your home.
  2. Follow the instructions in the test to take your water samples.
  3. Send the samples back to the laboratory.
  4. Wait to receive your results (usually 7-10 days).

We recommend testing your water for chlorobenzene if you have a specific reason to be concerned about this contaminant, such as if your local area has a known issue with chlorobenzene contamination.

In this case, your local authority may offer free or discounted chlorobenzene tests to people on a private water supply, so check online before you spend your own money on a lab test.

๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿฝโ€โš•๏ธ What To Do If You’re Concerned About Chlorobenzene In Your Water

If you’re concerned that chlorobenzene is contaminating your drinking water, here’s our advice:

  • Determine your actual risk of being exposed to this contaminant in your water. The EWG has produced a handy database that shows which states have reported monochlorobenzene in their water, ordered by the number of utilities and the number of people served.
  • If you get your water from a city supplier, your water utility should reduce chlorobenzene to within legal limits. There’s not a lot you can do about trace levels of chlorobenzene in your water, apart from removing them at home with a suitable filtration solution.
  • If you’re on a private well and you discover chlorobenzene in your water, it’s your responsibility to install a filtration system to keep your water safe for drinking.
  • Contact your doctor if you think you’ve been exposed to chlorobenzene, especially if you’re displaying possible symptoms.
Springwell CF whole house filtration system with activated carbon filter to tackle chlorobenzene in water

โš ๏ธ Other Ways You Might Be Exposed To Chlorobenzene

Although chlorobenzene water contamination is the most common source of exposure, you might also be exposed to this chemical in the following ways:

  • From eating contaminated foods – Certain foods are grown in contaminated soils or treated with pesticides containing chlorobenzene. Traces of this chemical may enter your body if you consume these foods.
  • By breathing contaminated air – You may also be exposed to very low levels of chlorobenzene in the air.
  • By dermal (skin) exposure to contaminated soil – Chlorobenzene isn’t found naturally in the environment, but it may still be present in soils contaminated with runoff from hazardous waste sites, farmland, and landfill. Touching or digging in soils containing chlorobenzene is another source of exposure to this chemical.
  • In certain occupations – If you work in an industry that makes or uses chlorobenzene, or you work on a hazardous waste site, you’re at a greater risk of chlorobenzene exposure than the general population.

๐Ÿ“‘ Final Word: Removing Chlorobenzene From Water

Chlorobenzene is one of the many toxic chemicals found in our drinking water supplies.

You probably don’t want to drink even low levels of this VOC in your water – and thankfully, there are at-home water filtration solutions that mean you don’t have to.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ”ง The best type of water filter for reducing or removing chlorobenzene is an activated carbon filter. You can buy this filter to install under your sink, on your kitchen countertop, or at your main water line as a whole-home system.

Make sure to choose a premium filter that’s sold by a reputable brand, and look for filters that have testing that proves their abilities to effectively reduce chlorobenzene.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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