Approaches for evaluating the relevance of multiroute exposures in establishing guideline values for drinking water contaminants

J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev. 2008 Jul-Sep;26(3):300-16. doi: 10.1080/10590500802343974.


In establishing the guideline values for chemical contaminants in drinking water, the contribution of inhalation and dermal routes associated with showering/bathing needs to be evaluated. The present article reviews the current approaches available for evaluating the importance of inhalation and dermal routes of exposure to drinking water contaminants (DWCs) and integrates them within a 2-tier approach. Accordingly, tier 1 would evaluate whether the dermal or inhalation route is likely to contribute to at least 10% of the dose received from ingestion of drinking water (i.e., 0.15 L-equivalent per day based on the daily water intake rate of 1.5 L/day typically used in Health Canada assessments). Based on the route-specific exposure parameters (i.e., area of skin exposed, effective skin permeability coefficient [K(p)], and air to water concentration ratio during use conditions [F(air-water)], breathing rate, duration of contact, and fraction absorbed), it was determined that for DWCs with K(p) less than 0.024 cm/hr and F(air - water) less than 0.0063, the dermal and inhalation routes during showering or bathing are unlikely to contribute significantly to the total dose. For DWCs with K(p) value equal to or greater than 0.025 cm/hr, dermal notation is implied, and as such, tier 2 calculation of L-equivalent associated with dermal exposure needs to be performed. Similarly, for DWCs with F(air-water) greater than 0.00063, inhalation notation is implied, and detailed evaluation of the L-equivalent associated with inhalation exposure (i.e., tier 2) is suggested. In general, data from human volunteer studies, observational measurements, and targeted modeling studies are useful for deriving L-equivalents, reflective of the magnitude of dose received via dermal and inhalation routes relative to the oral route. However, in resource-limited situations, these approaches can be integrated within a 2-tier approach for prioritizing and providing quantitative evaluations of the relevance of dermal and inhalation routes for developing exposure guidelines for DWCs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Baths / adverse effects*
  • Baths / statistics & numerical data
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Inhalation Exposure / prevention & control
  • Models, Biological
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Skin Absorption
  • Time Factors
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollution / adverse effects
  • Water Pollution / analysis*
  • Water Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Water Purification / methods
  • Water Purification / standards
  • Water Supply / analysis
  • Water Supply / standards


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical