Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Mixed organic and inorganic tapwater exposures and potential effects in greater Chicago area, USA

February 11, 2020

Safe drinking water at the point of use (tapwater, TW) is a public-health priority. TW exposures and potential human-health concerns of 540 organics and 35 inorganics were assessed in 45 Chicago area United States (US) homes in 2017. No US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level(s) (MCL) were exceeded in any residential or water treatment plant (WTP) pre-distribution TW sample. Ninety percent (90%) of organic analytes were not detected in treated TW, emphasizing the high quality of the Lake Michigan drinking-water source and the efficacy of the drinking-water treatment and monitoring. Sixteen (16) organics were detected in >25% of TW samples, with about 50 detected at least once. Low-level TW exposures to unregulated disinfection byproducts (DBP) of emerging concern, per/polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and three pesticides were ubiquitous. Common exceedances of non-enforceable EPA MCL Goal(s) (MCLG) of zero for arsenic [As], lead [Pb], uranium [U]), bromodichloromethane, and tribromomethane suggest potential human health concerns and emphasize the continuing need for improved understanding of cumulative effects of low-concentration mixtures on vulnerable sub-populations. Because DBP dominated TW organics, residential TW concentrations are potentially predictable with expanded pre-distribution DBP monitoring. However, several TW chemicals, notably Pb and several infrequently detected organic compounds, were not readily explained by pre distribution samples, illustrating the need for continued broad inorganic/organic TW characterization to support consumer assessment of acceptable risk and point-of-use treatment options.