Assessment of water use for estimating exposure to tap water contaminants

Environ Health Perspect. 1998 Feb;106(2):55-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9810655.


Epidemiological studies examining the association between exposure to tap water contaminants (such as chlorination by-products) and disease outcomes (such as cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes) have been limited by inaccurate exposure assessment. Failure to take into account the variation in beverage and tap water consumption and exposure to volatile contaminants through inhalation and dermal absorption can introduce misclassification in assessing the association between exposure to tap water contaminants and health. To refine exposure assessment of tap water contaminants, we describe in detail the tap water consumption, showering, and bathing habits of pregnant women and their male partners as assessed by a questionnaire and a 3-day water diary. We found good agreement between questionnaire and 3-day water diary values for drinking water intake (Pearson's r = 0.78) and for time spent showering(r = 0.68) and bathing (r = 0.78). Half of the participants consumed tap water on a regular basis with an overall mean +/- 1 standard deviation (SD) of 0. 78 +/- 0.51 l/day. Our results further suggest that full-time employees, compared to women working part-time or less, have more heterogeneous consumption patterns over time. Seventy-nine percent of women and 94% of men took showers for an average of 11.6 +/-4.0 min and 10.4 +/- 4.8 min, respectively. Baths were taken more frequently by women than men (21% vs. 3%) for an average of 22.9 +/-10.1 min and 21.3 +/- 12.4 min, respectively. Thus, these patterns of tap water use should be considered in the design and interpretation of environmental epidemiology studies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Baths
  • Data Collection
  • Dogs
  • Drinking Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Research Design
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Supply / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical