Drinking Water Disinfection By-products

Bilden visar vattenkran. The picture shows water tap

Disinfection of household water has improved public health but also produces disinfection byproducts (DBPs), some being toxic and carcinogenic. Unknown or non-monitored DBPs contribute large health risks, but exposure assessments have not been possible due to previous limitations in analytical techniques. With new analytical methods many more DBPs can be identified and surveyed in order to decrease health risks. This international project is carried out in close cooperation with drinking water producers.

Clean, healthy, drinking water is fundamental for society. Disinfection of household water has improved public health but also produces disinfection byproducts (DBPs), some being toxic and carcinogenic. The human exposure of DBPs is very unclear. Although more than 600 DBPs have been identified they represent less than 50 % of the total DBPs formed. Further, only three types of DBPs are regularly monitored in Europe and USA, and negative health effects of these compounds are two orders of magnitude smaller than estimated effects of total DBPs. Hence, unknown or non-monitored DBPs contribute the largest health risks, and exposure assessments have not been possible due to previous limitations in analytical techniques.

This internationally and interdisciplinary project, in close interaction with drinking water producers, aims to assess the molecular diversity and exposure of DBPs in drinking water through access to non-target organic matter analysis techniques capable of identifying complex mixtures to the molecular level (e.g. ultrahigh resolution Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry, and high field cryogenic Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy).

In a preliminary study these techniques identified at least 800 new DBPs. Different ways to reduce DBP exposure will be tested. This project will provide the basis needed for measures to decrease health risks related to DBPs in drinking water.

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