Influence of tap water quality and household water use activities on indoor air and internal dose levels of trihalomethanes

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Jul;113(7):863-70. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7141.


Individual exposure to trihalomethanes (THMs) in tap water can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or dermal exposure. Studies indicate that activities associated with inhaled or dermal exposure routes result in a greater increase in blood THM concentration than does ingestion. We measured blood and exhaled air concentrations of THM as biomarkers of exposure to participants conducting 14 common household water use activities, including ingestion of hot and cold tap water beverages, showering, clothes washing, hand washing, bathing, dish washing, and indirect shower exposure. We conducted our study at a single residence in each of two water utility service areas, one with relatively high and the other low total THM in the residence tap water. To maintain a consistent exposure environment for seven participants, we controlled water use activities, exposure time, air exchange, water flow and temperature, and nonstudy THM sources to the indoor air. We collected reference samples for water supply and air (pre-water use activity), as well as tap water and ambient air samples. We collected blood samples before and after each activity and exhaled breath samples at baseline and post-activity. All hot water use activities yielded a 2-fold increase in blood or breath THM concentrations for at least one individual. The greatest observed increase in blood and exhaled breath THM concentration in any participant was due to showering (direct and indirect), bathing, and hand dishwashing. Average increase in blood THM concentration ranged from 57 to 358 pg/mL due to these activities. More research is needed to determine whether acute and frequent exposures to THM at these concentrations have public health implications. Further research is also needed in designing epidemiologic studies that minimize data collection burden yet maximize accuracy in classification of dermal and inhalation THM exposure during hot water use activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollutants* / blood
  • Air Pollution, Indoor*
  • Baths
  • Breath Tests
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Temperature
  • Trihalomethanes* / analysis
  • Trihalomethanes* / blood
  • Volatilization
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / blood
  • Water Supply


  • Air Pollutants
  • Trihalomethanes
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical