Oxidative decomposition of vitamin C in drinking water

Free Radic Res. 2004 Aug;38(8):855-60. doi: 10.1080/10715760410001700497.


We have previously shown that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can initiate hydroxyl radical formation in copper contaminated household drinking water. In the present study, we have examined the stability of vitamin C in copper and bicarbonate containing household drinking water. In drinking water samples, contaminated with copper from the pipes and buffered with bicarbonate, 35% of the added vitamin C was oxidized to dehydroascorbic acid within 15 min. After 3h incubation at room temperature, 93% of the added (2 mM) ascorbic acid had been oxidized. The dehydroascorbic acid formed was further decomposed to oxalic acid and threonic acid by the hydrogen peroxide generated from the copper (I) autooxidation in the presence of oxygen. A very modest oxidation of vitamin C occurred in Milli-Q water and in household water samples not contaminated by copper ions. Moreover, addition of vitamin C to commercially sold domestic bottled water samples did not result in vitamin C oxidation. Our results demonstrate that ascorbic acid is rapidly oxidized to dehydroascorbic acid and further decomposed to oxalic- and threonic acid in copper contaminated household tap water that is buffered with bicarbonate. The impact of consuming ascorbic acid together with copper and bicarbonate containing drinking water on human health is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / chemistry*
  • Butyrates / chemistry
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / chemistry
  • Oxalic Acid / chemistry
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Water Supply / analysis*


  • Butyrates
  • Oxalic Acid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • threonic acid
  • Ascorbic Acid