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Assessment of Airborne Exposure to Trihalomethanes from Tap Water in Residential Showers and Baths

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This study evaluates airborne concentrations of common trihalomethane (THM) compounds in bathrooms during showering and bathing in homes supplied with chlorinated tap water. Three homes in an urban area were selected, each having three bedrooms, a full bath, and approximately 1,000 square feet of living area. THMs were concurrently measured in tap water and air in the shower/bath enclosure and the bathroom vanity area using Summa canisters. Chloroform (TCM), bromodichloromethane (BDCM), and chlorodibromomethane (CDBM) were quantified using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Method TO-14. Air samples were collected prior to, during, and after the water-use event for 16 shower and 7 bath events. Flow rate and temperature were measured, but not controlled. The increase in average airborne concentration (± standard error) during showers (expressed as μg/m3 in shower enclosure or bathroom air per μg/L in water) was 3.3 ± 0.4 for TCM, 1.8 ± 0.3 for BDCM, and 0.5 ± 0.1 for CDBM (n = 12), and during baths was 1.2 ± 0.4 for TCM, 0.59 ± 0.21 for BDCM, and 0.15 ± 0.05 for CDBM (n = 4). The relative contribution of each chemical to the airborne concentrations was consistent for all shower and bath events, with apparent release of TCM> CDBM. The results are therefore consistent with their relative concentration in tap water and their vapor pressures. When the shower findings for TCM are normalized for water concentration, flow rate, shower volume, and duration, the average exposure concentrations in these urban residences are about 30% lower than those reported by other investigators using EPA analytical methods. This difference is likely attributable primarily to greater air exchange rates in residential shower/bath stalls compared to more “airtight” laboratory shower chambers. This appears to be the first field study to thoroughly evaluate THM exposures from residential showers and baths, and can be used to validate previously published models of tap water volatile chemical transfer to indoor air.

Keywords: Chloroform; airborne; bath; shower; trihalomethanes

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: Health Science Resource Integration, Inc., Tallahassee, FL., 2: Consultant, Red Bluff, CA., 3: Exponent, Menlo Park, CA.

Publication date: October 1, 2000


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