Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

What's in your water?

29.01.2020

Researchers identify new toxic byproducts of disinfecting drinking water

Mixing drinking water with chlorine, the United States' most common method of disinfecting drinking water, creates previously unidentified toxic byproducts, says Carsten Prasse from Johns Hopkins University and his collaborators from the University of California, Berkeley and Switzerland.


When phenols, compounds that are commonly found in drinking water, mix with chlorine, hundreds of unknown, potentially toxic byproducts are formed.

Credit: Marissa Lanterman/Johns Hopkins University

The researchers' findings were published this past week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

"There's no doubt that chlorine is beneficial; chlorination has saved millions of lives worldwide from diseases such as typhoid and cholera since its arrival in the early 20th century," says Prasse, an assistant professor of Environmental Health and Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University and the paper's lead author.

"But that process of killing potentially fatal bacteria and viruses comes with unintended consequences. The discovery of these previously unknown, highly toxic byproducts, raises the question how much chlorination is really necessary."

Phenols, which are chemical compounds that occur naturally in the environment and are abundant in personal care products and pharmaceuticals, are commonly found in drinking water. When these phenols mix with chlorine, the process creates a large number of byproducts. Current analytical chemistry methods, however, are unable to detect and identify all of these byproducts, some which may be harmful and can cause long-term health consequences, says Prasse.

In this study, Prasse and colleagues employed a technique commonly used in the field of toxicology to identify compounds based on their reaction with biomolecules like DNA and proteins. They added N-α-acetyl-lysine, which is almost identical to the amino acid lysine that makes up many proteins in our bodies, to detect reactive electrophiles. Previous studies show that electrophiles are harmful compounds which have been linked to a variety of diseases.

The researchers first chlorinated water using the same methods used commercially for drinking water; this included adding excess chlorine, which ensures sufficient disinfection but also eliminates harmless smell and taste compounds that consumers often complain about. After that, the team added the aforementioned amino acid, let the water incubate for one day and used mass spectrometry, a method of analyzing chemicals, to detect the electrophiles that reacted with the amino acid.

Their experiment found the compounds 2-butene-1,4-dial (BDA) and chloro-2-butene-1,4-dial (or BDA with chlorine attached). BDA is a very toxic compound and a known carcinogen that, until this study, scientists had not detected in chlorinated water before, says Prasse.

While Prasse stresses that this is a lab-based study and the presence of these novel byproducts in real drinking water has not been evaluated, the findings also raise the question about the use of alternative methods to disinfect drinking water, including the use of ozone, UV treatment or simple filtration.

"In other countries, especially in Europe, chlorination is not used as frequently, and the water is still safe from waterborne illnesses. In my opinion, we need to evaluate when chlorination is really necessary for the protection of human health and when alternative approaches might be better," says Prasse.

"Our study also clearly emphasizes the need for the development of new analytical techniques that allow us to evaluate the formation of toxic disinfection by-products when chlorine or other disinfectants are being used. One reason regulators and utilities are not monitoring these compounds is that they don't have the tools to find them."

###

Other authors on this study include Urs von Gunten of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology and David L. Sedlak of The University of California, Berkeley.

Funding for this study was provided by the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program (Grant P42 ES004705) at the University of California, Berkeley and internal funding from Johns Hopkins University.

Media Contact

Chanapa Tantibanchachai
chanapa@jhu.edu
928-458-9656

 @JohnsHopkins

http://www.jhu.edu 

Chanapa Tantibanchachai | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b04926

Further reports about: Environmental Health amino acid chlorine drinking water proteins

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht A step towards controlling spin-dependent petahertz electronics by material defects
19.02.2020 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Could water solve the renewable energy storage challenge?
19.02.2020 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A step towards controlling spin-dependent petahertz electronics by material defects

The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.

Light waves perform several hundred trillion oscillations per second. Hence, it is natural to envision employing light oscillations to drive the electronic...

Im Focus: Freiburg researcher investigate the origins of surface texture

Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.

Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

"Make two out of one" - Division of Artificial Cells

19.02.2020 | Life Sciences

High-Performance Computing Center of the University of Stuttgart Receives new Supercomuter "Hawk"

19.02.2020 | Information Technology

A step towards controlling spin-dependent petahertz electronics by material defects

19.02.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>