Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Research links water disinfection byproducts to adverse health effects

University of Illinois scientists report the first identification of a cellular mechanism linked to the toxicity of a major class of drinking water disinfection byproducts. This study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, suggests a possible connection to adverse health effects, including neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's.

"I'm not implying that drinking disinfected water will give you Alzheimer's," said Michael Plewa, lead scientist and professor of genetics in the U of I Department of Crop Sciences. "Certainly, the disinfection of drinking water was one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century. But the adverse effects of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) that are unintentionally formed during this process are causing concerns as researchers unveil their toxicity."

More than 600 DBPs have been discovered. Although researchers know some DBPs are toxic, little biological information is available on the majority of these water contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates only 11 of these DBPs, he said.

Plewa's laboratory investigated the biological mechanism, or the cellular target that leads to toxicity, in the second-most prevalent DBP class generated in disinfected water – haloacetic acids (HAAs).

"The EPA has regulated HAAs for nearly 15 years. However, we did not know how they caused toxicity before this study," he said. "Now that we've uncovered the mechanism for HAAs, we can make sense of past data that can lead to new studies relating to adverse pregnancy outcomes, different types of cancer, and neurological dysfunction."

Plewa believes this will assist the EPA in establishing regulations based on science. Their research will also help the water treatment community develop new methods to prevent the generation of the most toxic DBPs.

"It's fairly simple," Plewa said. "To increase the health benefits of disinfected water, we must reduce the most toxic DBPs. If we understand their biological mechanisms, we can come up with more rational ways to disinfect drinking water without generating toxic DBPs."

In this study, researchers focused on three HAAs – iodoacetic acid, bromoacetic acid and chloroacetic acid. After they rejected their first hypothesis that the HAAs directly damaged DNA, they looked at research in a different area – neuroscience. Plewa's graduate student, Justin Pals, discovered an amazing connection, Plewa said.

In neurotoxicology, iodoacetic acid reduces the availability of nutrients or oxygen in neurons by inhibiting glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH).

"Researchers are interested in understanding how to prevent damage after a stroke or other neurological damage," Plewa said. "Iodoacetic acid kills these cells. One of the targets they found was that iodoacetic acid inhibited GAPDH."

Plewa's lab conducted quantitative GAPDH enzyme kinetics and discovered that the data were highly correlated with a diversity of adverse health markers.

"All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place in an instant," Plewa said. "We had discovered our cellular target – GAPDH. Never before had this type of research been done with this level of precision and associated with a large body of adverse biological impacts."

They discovered that the HAA disinfection byproducts were toxic because the cells cannot make ATP, and this causes oxidative stress.

"Cells treated with HAAs experience DNA damage," Plewa said. "So they start expressing DNA repair systems. HAAs are not directly damaging DNA, rather they are inhibiting GAPDH, which is involved in increasing the oxidative stress that we are observing."

A growing body of information has shown that GAPDH is associated with the onset of neurological diseases.

"If you carry a natural mutation for GAPDH and are exposed to high levels of these disinfection byproducts, you could be more susceptible to adverse health effects such as Alzheimer's," he said.

More research is needed to study iodinated disinfection byproducts because they are the most reactive in inhibiting GAPDH function and are currently not regulated by the EPA, Plewa said.

"We replaced the standard working model of direct DNA damage with a new working model based on a cellular target molecule," he said. "This discovery is a fundamental contribution to the field of drinking water science."

This research, "Biological Mechanism for the Toxicity of Haloacetic Acid Drinking Water Disinfection Byproducts," was published in Environmental Science & Technology. Scientists include Michael Plewa, Justin Pals, Justin Ang and Elizabeth Wagner, all of the University of Illinois. Research was supported by the WaterCAMPWS Center NSF Award CTS-0120978.

Jennifer Shike | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Strong, steady forces at work during cell division
20.10.2016 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Disturbance wanted
20.10.2016 | Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>