Ingestion, inhalation, and dermal exposures to chloroform and trichloroethene from tap water

Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Jan;104(1):48-51. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9610448.


Individuals are exposed to volatile compounds present in tap water by ingestion, inhalation, and dermal absorption. Traditional risk assessments for water often only consider ingestion exposure to toxic chemicals, even though showering has been shown to increase the body burden of certain chemicals due to inhalation exposure and dermal absorption. We collected and analyzed time-series samples of expired alveolar breath to evaluate changes in concentrations of volatile organic compounds being expired, which reflects the rate of change in the bloodstream due to expiration, metabolism, and absorption into tissues. Analysis of chloroform and trichloethene in expired breath, compounds regulated in water, was also used to determine uptake from tap water by each route (inhalation, ingestion, or absorption). Each route of exposure contributed to the total exposure of these compounds from daily water use. Further, the ingestion dose was completely metabolized before entering the bloodstream, whereas the dose from the other routes was dispersed throughout the body. Thus, differences in potential biologically effective doses depend on route, target organ, and whether the contaminant or metabolite is the biologically active agent.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breath Tests
  • Chloroform / analysis
  • Chloroform / pharmacokinetics*
  • Drinking
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration
  • Skin Absorption
  • Trichloroethylene / analysis
  • Trichloroethylene / pharmacokinetics*
  • United States
  • Volatilization
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / pharmacokinetics*
  • Water Supply*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Chloroform