Demonstration of 20 pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) as nitrosamine precursors during chloramine disinfection

Water Res. 2011 Jan;45(2):944-52. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2010.09.036. Epub 2010 Oct 13.


The worldwide detection of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the aquatic environment and drinking water has been a cause for concern in recent years. The possibility for concurrent formation of nitrosamine DBPs (disinfection by-products) during chloramine disinfection has become another significant concern for delivered drinking water quality because of their potent carcinogenicity. This study demonstrates that a group of PPCPs containing amine groups can serve as nitrosamine precursors during chloramine disinfection. Molar yields higher than 1% are observed for eight pharmaceuticals, with ranitidine showing the strongest potential to form N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). The molar conversion increases with the Cl(2):N mass ratio, suggesting that dichloramine is relevant to the formation of NDMA from these precursors. Although the trace level of PPCPs in the environment suggests that they may not account for the majority of nitrosamine precursors during the disinfection process, this study demonstrates a connection between the transformation of PPCPs and the formation of nitrosamines during chloramine disinfection. This both expands the pool of potential nitrosamine precursors, and provides a possible link between the presence of trace levels of certain PPCPs in drinking water sources and potential adverse health effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chloramines / chemistry*
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects
  • Cosmetics / chemistry
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Dimethylnitrosamine / chemical synthesis
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Hair Preparations / adverse effects
  • Hair Preparations / chemistry
  • Nitrosamines / chemical synthesis*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Water Purification


  • Chloramines
  • Cosmetics
  • Hair Preparations
  • Nitrosamines
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • chloramine
  • Dimethylnitrosamine