Cytotoxic and genotoxic potential of drinking water: a comparison between two different concentration methods

Water Res. 2008 Apr;42(8-9):1999-2006. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2007.12.005. Epub 2007 Dec 15.


The level of exposure to hazardous compounds through drinking water is low but it is maintained throughout life, therefore representing a risk factor for human health. The use of techniques averaging the consumer's exposure over time could be more useful than relying on intermittent grab samples that may misrepresent average tap water concentrations due to short-term temporal variability. In this study, we compared the induction of in vitro cytotoxic and genotoxic effects (DNA damage by the comet assay) in relation to different sampling methods, i.e. exposure over time (semipermeable membrane devices, SPMDs, exposed for 30 days) or intermittent grab samples (5 weekly water sampling, C18 concentration). Waters with different chemical characteristics were sampled to test the sensitivity of the two methods. We did not found any positive correlation between the biological findings and water chemical parameters. SPMD extracts induced a significantly greater DNA damage than C18. The different behaviour was specially found for the water samples with a low level of organic compounds and when C18 extracts were highly cytotoxic. Our findings suggest that SPMD could be of a great interest in assessing genotoxic contaminants in both raw and drinking water, with great suitability for continuous monitoring. Furthermore, the results of this study have confirmed the great importance of the biological assays in evaluating the effects of a complex mixture such as water in addition to the conventional chemical examination of water quality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogenicity Tests*
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage
  • Mutagenicity Tests*
  • Water Supply / analysis*