Carcinogenic risk of N-Nitrosamines in Shanghai Drinking Water: Indications for the Use of Ozone Pretreatment

Zhiyuan Chen, Lan Yang, Yu Huang, Peter Spencer, Weiwei Zheng, Ying Zhou, Songhui Jiang, Weimin Ye, Yuxin Zheng, Weidong Qu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


N-Nitrosamines are drinking water disinfection byproducts that pose a high carcinogenic risk. We hypothesized that raw water treatment processes influence the types and concentrations of nitrosamines in drinking water, thereby posing differential health risks. We compared the finished water of two water treatment plants (WTP-A, WTP-B) serving Shanghai, China. Both plants use the Qingcaosha reservoir as a water source to generate drinking water with conventional but distinct treatment processes, namely preoxidation with sodium hypochlorite (WTP-A) vs ozone (WTP-B). Average nitrosamine concentrations, especially that of the probable human carcinogen (2A) N-nitrosodimethylamine, were higher in finished (drinking) water from WTP-A (35.83 ng/L) than from WTP-B (5.07 ng/L). Other differences in mean nitrosamines in drinking water included N-nitrosodipropylamine (42.62 ng/L) and N-nitrosomethylethylamine (26.73 ng/L) in WTP-A in contrast to N-nitrosodiethylamine (7.26 ng/L) and N-nitrosopyrrolidine (59.12 ng/L) in WTP-B. The estimated adult cancer risk from exposure to mixed nitrosamines was 1.83 times higher from WTP-A than from WTP-B drinking water. Children exposed to nitrosamines had a significantly higher cancer risk than adults (p < 0.05). Disease burden exceeded 106 person-years. Taken together, these data suggest that use of ozone in the preoxidation step can reduce nitrosamine formation in drinking water and thereby lower the population cancer health risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7007-7018
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 18 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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