TIC-Tox: A preliminary discussion on identifying the forcing agents of DBP-mediated toxicity of disinfected water

Michael J. Plewa, Elizabeth D. Wagner, Susan D. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The disinfection of drinking water is a major public health achievement; however, an unintended consequence of disinfection is the generation of disinfection by-products (DBPs). Many of the identified DBPs exhibit in vitro and in vivo toxicity, generate a diversity of adverse biological effects, and may be hazards to the public health and the environment. Only a few DBPs are regulated by several national and international agencies and it is not clear if these regulated DBPs are the forcing agents that drive the observed toxicity and their associated health effects. In this study, we combine analytical chemical and biological data to resolve the forcing agents associated with mammalian cell cytotoxicity of drinking water samples from three cities. These data suggest that the trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids may be a small component of the overall cytotoxicity of the organic material isolated from disinfected drinking water. Chemical classes of nitrogen-containing DBPs, such as the haloacetonitriles and haloacetamides, appear to be the major forcing agents of toxicity in these samples. These findings may have important implications for the design of epidemiological studies that primarily rely on the levels of THMs to define DBP exposure among populations. The TIC-Tox approach constitutes a beginning step in the process of identifying the forcing agents of toxicity in disinfected water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-216
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of environmental sciences (China)
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Additivity
  • CHO cell cytotoxicity
  • DBPs
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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