Effect of drinking water disinfection by-products in human peripheral blood lymphocytes and sperm

Aftab Ali, Malgorzata Kurzawa-Zegota, Mojgan Najafzadeh, Rajendran C. Gopalan, Michael J. Plewa, Diana Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Drinking water disinfection by-products (DBPs) are generated by the chemical disinfection of water and may pose hazards to public health. Two major classes of DBPs are found in finished drinking water: haloacetic acids (HAAs) and trihalomethanes (THMs). HAAs are formed following disinfection with chlorine, which reacts with iodide and bromide in the water. Previously the HAAs were shown to be cytotoxic, genotoxic, mutagenic, teratogenic and carcinogenic. Objectives: To determine the effect of HAAs in human somatic and germ cells and whether oxidative stress is involved in genotoxic action. In the present study both somatic and germ cells have been examined as peripheral blood lymphocytes and sperm. Methods: The effects of three HAA compounds: iodoacetic acid (IAA), bromoacetic acid (BAA) and chloroacetic acid (CAA) were investigated. After determining appropriate concentration responses, oxygen radical involvement with the antioxidants, butylated hydroxanisole (BHA) and the enzyme catalase, were investigated in the single cell gel electrophoresis (Comet) assay under alkaline conditions, >pH 13 and the micronucleus assay. Results: In the Comet assay, BHA and catalase were able to reduce DNA damage in each cell type compared to HAA alone. In the micronucleus assay, micronuclei (MNi) were found in peripheral lymphocytes exposed to all three HAAs and catalase and BHA were in general, able to reduce MNi induction, suggesting oxygen radicals play a role in both assays. Conclusion: These observations are of concern to public health since both human somatic and germ cells show similar genotoxic responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-143
Number of pages8
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Bromoacetic acid (BAA)
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • CBMN (cytokinesis-block micronucleus) assay
  • Catalase
  • Chloroacetic acid (CAA)
  • Comet assay
  • Haloacetic acid (HAA)
  • Iodoacetic acid (IAA)
  • Micronuclei (MNi)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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