Comparison of the health risks associated with different exposure pathways of multiple volatile chlorinated hydrocarbons in contaminated drinking groundwater

Environ Pollut. 2019 Dec;255(Pt 3):113339. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2019.113339. Epub 2019 Oct 5.


A total of 152 groundwater samples were collected around a contaminated site to evaluate the carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic risks of exposure to twelve volatile chlorinated hydrocarbons (VCHs) by oral ingestion, dermal contact and inhalation absorption during showering. Although toxicity data of some VCHs are fragmentary, the results showed that the carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic risks of exposure to VCHs in contaminated drinking groundwater for local residents needs immediate attention. The main risk contributors for the carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic risks are carbon tetrachloride and 1,1,2-trichloroethane through inhalation exposure pathway, respectively. The health risk contribution rates associated with three exposure pathways for a specific VCH were intrinsic to the compound, and the dermal contact corresponded to a negligible contribution for almost every VCH species. Although most of the evaluated VCHs had a higher risk contribution by inhalation than by oral ingestion pathway, the integrated multi-VCH health risk contributions of the three exposure pathways were mainly dependent on the VCH compositions. Drinking boiled water not only decreased the exposure risk but also affected the risk contribution rates of three exposure pathways, which indicates that it is feasible to reduce the risk of VCH exposure during daily activities based on the risk contribution of the exposure pathways. In addition to the VCHs included in the drinking water standards, species such as 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane and hexachloroethane also showed a remarkable exposure health risk according to the standardized health risk calculation, which implied that improved drinking water standards are urgently required.

Keywords: Contribution; Drinking groundwater; Exposure pathways; Health risk; Volatile chlorinated hydrocarbons.

MeSH terms

  • Drinking Water / analysis
  • Ethane / analogs & derivatives
  • Groundwater / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / analysis*
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity
  • Risk Assessment
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Drinking Water
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • tetrachloroethane
  • hexachloroethane
  • Ethane