The influence of physicochemical properties on the internal dose of trihalomethanes in humans following a controlled showering exposure

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2013 Jan-Feb;23(1):39-45. doi: 10.1038/jes.2012.80. Epub 2012 Jul 25.


Although disinfection of domestic water supply is crucial for protecting public health from waterborne diseases, this process forms potentially harmful by-products, such as trihalomethanes (THMs). We evaluated the influence of physicochemical properties of four THMs (chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, and bromoform) on the internal dose after showering. One hundred volunteers showered for 10 min in a controlled setting with fixed water flow, air flow, and temperature. We measured THMs in shower water, shower air, bathroom air, and blood samples collected at various time intervals. The geometric mean (GM) for total THM concentration in shower water was 96.2 μg/l. The GM of total THM in air increased from 5.8 μg/m(3) pre shower to 351 μg/m(3) during showering. Similarly, the GM of total-blood THM concentration increased from 16.5 ng/l pre shower to 299 ng/l at 10 min post shower. THM levels were significantly correlated between different matrices (e.g. dibromochloromethane levels) in water and air (r=0.941); blood and water (r=0.845); and blood and air (r=0.831). The slopes of best-fit lines for THM levels in water vs air and blood vs air increased with increasing partition coefficient of water/air and blood/air. The slope of the correlation plot of THM levels in water vs air decreased in a linear (r=0.995) fashion with increasing Henry's law constant. The physicochemical properties (volatility, partition coefficients, and Henry's law constant) are useful parameters for predicting THM movement between matrices and understanding THM exposure during showering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Humans
  • Trihalomethanes / administration & dosage*
  • Trihalomethanes / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / administration & dosage*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry


  • Trihalomethanes
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical