Identification of organic compounds migrating from polyethylene pipelines into drinking water

Water Res. 2002 Sep;36(15):3675-80. doi: 10.1016/s0043-1354(02)00084-2.


A study of the diffusion of organic additives from four polyethylene (PE) materials into drinking water was conducted. Various structures of organic chemicals were identified in the water extracts by means of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis. Most of them presented a basic common structure characterised by a phenolic ring typically substituted with hindered alkyl groups in positions 2 and 6 on the aromatic ring. The structures attributed to some of the chemicals have been confirmed using commercial or purposely synthesised standards. Unprocessed granules of raw PE were also analysed, in order to investigate the origin of the chemicals detected in the water samples. Consequently, the presence of some of the compounds was attributed to impurities or by-products of typical phenolic additives used as antioxidants in pipeline production. Finally, the occurrence of the identified chemicals was tested under field conditions, i.e. in water samples from newly installed pipelines in a distribution system. Here, the presence of three of the compounds identified in vitro was detected.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Manufactured Materials
  • Polyethylene / analysis
  • Polyethylene / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Supply*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Polyethylene