Degradation of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in landscape soils

J Environ Qual. 2005 Jan-Feb;34(1):336-41. doi: 10.2134/jeq2005.0336.


N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a potential carcinogen, was commonly found in treated wastewater as a by-product of chlorination. As treated water is increasingly used for landscape irrigation, there is an imperative need to understand the leaching risk for NDMA in landscape soils. In this study, adsorption and incubation experiments were conducted using landscape soils planted with turfgrass, ground cover, and trees. Adsorption of NDMA was negligibly weak (K(d) < 1) in all soils, indicating that NDMA has a high potential for moving with percolating water in these soils. Degradation of NDMA occurred at different rates among these soils. At 21 degrees C, the half-life (t(1/2)) of NDMA was 4.1 d for the ground cover soil, 5.6 d for the turfgrass soil, and 22.5 d for the tree soil. The persistence was substantially prolonged after autoclaving or when incubated at 10 degrees C. The rate of degradation was not significantly affected by the initial NDMA concentration or addition of organic and inorganic nutrient sources. The relative persistence was inversely correlated with soil organic matter content, soil microbial biomass, and soil dehydrogenase activity, suggesting the importance of microorganisms in NDMA degradation in these soils. These results suggest that the behavior of NDMA depends closely on the vegetation cover in a landscape system, and prolonged persistence and increased leaching may be expected in soils with sparse vegetation due to low organic matter content and limited microbial activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Nitroso Compounds / metabolism*
  • Plants
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Soil Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Solubility
  • Temperature
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Water Supply


  • Nitroso Compounds
  • Soil Pollutants
  • 4-nitrosodimethylaniline