Halonitromethane Drinking Water Disinfection Byproducts: Chemical Characterization and Mammalian Cell Cytotoxicity and Genotoxicity

Michael J. Plewa, Elizabeth D. Wagner, Paulina Jazwierska, Susan D. Richardson, Paul H. Chen, A. Bruce McKague

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Halonitromethanes are drinking water disinfection byproducts that have recently received a high priority for health effects research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Our purpose was to identify and synthesize where necessary the mixed halonitromethanes and to determine the chronic cytotoxicity and the acute genotoxicity of these agents in mammalian cells. The halonitromethanes included bromonitromethane (BNM), dibromonitromethane (DBNM), tribromonitromethane (TBNM), bromochloronitromethane (BCNM), dibromochloronitromethane (DBCNM), bromodichloronitromethane (BDCNM), chloronitromethane (CNM), dichloronitromethane (DCNM), and trichloronitromethane (TCNM). Low- and high-resolution gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) was used to identify the mixed chloro-bromonitromethanes in finished drinking waters, and analytical standards that were not commercially available were synthesized (BDCNM, DBCNM, TBNM, CNM, DCNM, BCNM). The rank order of their chronic cytotoxicity (72 h exposure) to Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells was DBNM > DBCNM > BNM > TBNM > BDCNM > BCNM > DCNM > CNM > TCNM. The rank order to induce genomic DNA damage in CHO cells was DBNM > BDCNM > TBNM > TCNM > BNM > DBCNM > BCNM > DCNM > CNM. The brominated nitromethanes were more cytotoxic and genotoxic than their chlorinated analogues. This research demonstrated the integration of the procedures for the analytical chemistry and analytical biology when working with limited amounts of sample. The halonitromethanes are potent mammalian cell cytotoxins and genotoxins and may pose a hazard to the public health and the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-68
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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