N-nitrosamines are a group of potent human carcinogens that can be formed during oxidative treatment of drinking water and wastewater. Many tertiary and quaternary amines present in consumer products (e.g., pharmaceuticals, personal care and household products) are known to be N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) precursors during chloramination, but the formation of other N-nitrosamines has been rarely studied. This study investigates the specific and total N-nitrosamine (TONO) formation potential (FP) of various precursors from nitrogen-containing micropollutants (chlorhexidine, metformin, benzalkonium chloride and cetyltrimethylammonium chloride) and tertiary and quaternary model amines (trimethyl amine, N,N-dimethylbutyl amine, N,N-dimethylbenzyl amine and tetramethyl ammonium). All the studied nitrogenous micropollutants displayed quantifiable TONO FP, with molar yields in the range 0.04–11.92%. However, the observed TONO pools constituted mostly of uncharacterized species, not included in US-EPA 8270 N-nitrosamines standard mix. Only the quaternary ammonium compound benzalkonium chloride showed quantifiable NDMA FP (0.56% molar yield), however, explaining only a minor fraction of the observed TONO FP. The studied model amines showed molar NDMA yields from 0.10% (trimethyl amine) to 5.05% (N,N-dimethylbenzyl amine), very similar to the molar TONO yields. The comparison of the FPs of micropollutants and model compounds showed that the presence of electron donating functional groups (such as a benzyl group) in tertiary and quaternary amine precursors leads to a higher formation of NDMA and uncharacterized N-nitrosamines, respectively. LC-qTOF screening of a list of proposed N-nitrosamine structures has enabled to identify a novel N-nitrosamine (N-nitroso-N-methyldodecylamine) from the chloramination of benzalkonium chloride. This finding supports the hypothesis that different functional groups in quaternary amines can act as leaving groups during chloramination and form differing N-nitrosamine structures at significant yield. Molar TONO yields determined for micropollutants were finally validated under experimental conditions closer to real water matrices, confirming their representativeness also for lower concentration ranges.
Water Research – Elsevier
Published: May 15, 2018
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