Volatilization of Chemicals from Drinking Water to Indoor Air: What you don't drink may harm you?

November 30, 2000 - 12:00pm
Bldg. 90

The American public has exhibited tremendous concern about the water it consumes, so much so that a large industry related to bottled-water products has emerged over the past two decades. Ironically, many of the chemicals that cause concern when observed in drinking water can effectively volatilize from water to indoor air, and recent studies suggest that inhalation of such chemicals often leads to greater human exposure than ingestion of the water itself.  However, past research has focused on only one source (showers) and a small range of drinking water contaminants.  Furthermore, it is often difficult to extract knowledge related to the fundamental mechanisms associated with water-to-air mass transfer from the published literature, which generally contains information limited to chemical stripping efficiencies.  In response, over 120 experiments were completed to assess liquid-gas mass transfer from water used in showers, bathtubs, dishwashers, washing machines, and washbasins.  A "cocktail" of five volatile tracers was used to determine overall and phase-specific mass transfer coefficients, and chemical stripping efficiencies for each source over a wide range of system operating conditions.  Headspace-to-room air exchange rates were also determined for dishwashers and washing machines.  The study led to new insights regarding the extent of chemical emissions during water usage, factors that influence such emissions, methods for determining mass transfer coefficients and stripping efficiencies for a wide range of chemicals, and estimation of human exposures and risks associated with chemicals such as disinfection by-products.  The accompanying presentation will provide an overview of the principles of water-to-air mass transfer, with a focus on indoor water usage, experimental methods, novel results and potential applications for their use.

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