Comparison of byproduct formation in waters treated with chlorine and iodine: Relevance to point-of-use treatment

Emma Marie Smith, Michael J. Plewa, Crystal L. Lindell, Susan D. Richardson, William A. Mitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Due to their efficacy in deactivating a range of microbial pathogens, particularly amoebic cysts, iodine-based disinfectants have been a popular option for point-of-use (POU) drinking water disinfection by campers, the military, and rural consumers in developing countries. Recently, concerns regarding the formation of cytotoxic and genotoxic iodinated disinfection byproducts (I-DBPs) have arisen during chloramine disinfection of iodide-containing waters in the developed world; similar concerns should pertain to iodine-based POU disinfection. Because there are alternative POU disinfection techniques, including chlorine-based disinfectants, this paper compared disinfection byproduct formation from a range of iodine-based disinfectants at their recommended dosages to chlorination and chloramination under overdosing conditions. Just as chloroform was the predominant trihalomethane (THM) forme during chlorination or chloramination, iodoform was the predominant THM formed during iodination. Conditions fostering THM formation were similar between these treatments, except that THM formation during chlorination increased with pH, while it was slightly elevated at circumneutral pH during iodination. Iodoform formation during treatment with iodine tincture was higher than during treatment with iodine tablets. On a molar basis, iodoform formation during treatment with iodine tincture was 20-60% of the formation of chloroform during chlorination, and total organic iodine (TOI) formation was twice that of total organic chlorine (TOCl), despite the 6-fold higher oxidant dose during chlorination. Based upon previous measurements of chronic mammalian cell cytotoxicity for the individual THMs, consumers of two waters treated with iodine tincture would receive the same THM-associated cytotoxic exposure in 4-19 days as a consumer of the same waters treated with a 6-fold higher dose of chlorine over 1 year. Iodoacetic acid, diiodoacetic acid, and other iodo-acids were also formed with iodine tincture treatment, but at levels <11% of iodoform. However, testing of a Lifestraw Personal POU device, which combines an iodinated anion exchange resin with activated carbon post-treatment, indicated minimal formation of I-DBPs and no iodine residual. Although N-nitrosamines have been associated with oxidant contact with anion exchange resins, N-nitrosamine formation rapidly declined to low levels (4 ng/L) using the Lifestraw device after the first few flushes of water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8446-8452
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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