Water research

The roles of tertiary amine structure, background organic matter and chloramine species on NDMA formation.

PMID 23237238


N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a probable human carcinogen, is a disinfection by-product that has been detected in chloraminated and chlorinated drinking waters and wastewaters. Formation mechanisms and precursors of NDMA are still not well understood. The main objectives of this study were to systematically investigate (i) the effect of tertiary amine structure, (ii) the effect of background natural organic matter (NOM), and (iii) the roles of mono vs. dichloramine species on the NDMA formation. Dimethylamine (DMA) and 20 different tertiary aliphatic and aromatic amines were carefully examined based on their functional groups attached to the basic DMA structure. The wide range (0.02-83.9%) of observed NDMA yields indicated the importance of the structure of tertiary amines, and both stability and electron distribution of the leaving group of tertiary amines on NDMA formation. DMA associated with branched alkyl groups or benzyl like structures having only one carbon between the ring and DMA structure consistently gave higher NDMA yields. Compounds with electron withdrawing groups (EWG) reacted preferentially with monochloramine, whereas compounds with electron donating group (EDG) showed tendency to react with dichloramine to form NDMA. When the selected amines were present in NOM solutions, NDMA formation increased for compounds with EWG while decreased for compounds with EDG. This impact was attributed to the competitions between NOM and amines for chloramine species. The results provided additional information to the commonly accepted mechanism for NDMA formation including chloramine species reacting with tertiary amines and the role of the leaving group on overall NDMA conversion.