Synthetic organic polymers used to purify drinking water are severely limited in that their impurities and byproducts harm human health. In this study, the undesired effects resulted from chlorination and the enhanced attenuation of toxic organic compounds in drinking water from using synthetic organic polymer coagulants were investigated. In the simulated drinking water purification processes, synthetic organic polymers were used as coagulant aids, reacted with a disinfectant(chlorine) and formed a large number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Chloroform and benzene which, are carcinogenic compounds, had the maximum formation potential. Experimental results indicated that the total formation potential of these disinfection by-products significantly increased in the presence of turbidity. On the other hand, adding organic polymers to the coagulation systems resulted in more extensive remove of toxic organic compounds and turbidity. In coagulation and flocculation processes, the formation of clay/polymer complexes can facilitate the removal of toxic organic compounds in contaminated water. (C)1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.