A variety of natural and anthropogenic contaminants can compromise the safety and esthetics of surface water collected for drinking and disinfected using chlorine by households in developing communities. While household chlorination is effective against most microbial pathogens, many users find the taste and odor of chlorine unacceptable and revert to drinking untreated water. Moreover, reactions between chlorine and the dissolved organic matter form harmful disinfection by-products (DBPs) such as trihalomethanes (THMs). Char adsorbers have been used to treat drinking water for thousands of years and are still widely used today. Results obtained here demonstrate that locally produced biomass chars (biochars) exhibit removal capacities comparable to those of activated carbon for removal of THMs, synthetic organic chemicals (SOCs) such as warfarin (WFN) (anticoagulant pharmaceutical, rodenticide), and naturally occurring trace organics such as the taste-and-odor compound 2-methylisoborneol (cyanobacterial metabolite). Results show chars can be used effectively to remove objectionable tastes and odors related to chlorine and cyanobacteria, DBPs, and SOCs. The use of char may lead to microbial risk reduction through greater acceptance of chlorine-based disinfection due to improved water esthetics, as well as chemical risk reduction associated with DBP and SOC exposure.

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