Caroline Gachet Aquillon

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A Survey of Industrial N-nitrosamine Discharges in Switzerland

Florian Frédéric Vincent Breider, Caroline Gachet Aquillon, Urs von Gunten

N-nitrosamines are formed during different industrial processes and are of significant concern due to their carcinogenic and mutagenic properties. This study reports concentrations of N-nitrosamines in eight different industrial wastewater treatment plants in Switzerland and the variability of their abundance. Only four N-nitrosamines species, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA), N-nitrosodibutylamine (NDPA) and N-nitrosomorpholine (NMOR) were above the limit of quantification in this campaign. Remarkably high concentrations (i.e. up to 975 μg NDMA/L, 90.7 μg NDEA/L, 1.6 μg NDPA/L and 710 μg NMOR/L) of these N-nitrosamines were detected at seven of eight sites. These concentrations are two to five orders of magnitude higher than those typically detected in municipal wastewater effluents. These results suggest that industrial effluents may be a major source of N-nitrosamines. Although very high concentrations of N-nitrosamine have been detected in industrial discharges, various processes in surface water can partially mitigate their concentrations (e.g. photolysis, biodegradation and volatilization) and hence the risk to human health and aquatic ecosystems. Nevertheless, there is little information on long-term effects on aquatic organisms and therefore the discharge of N-nitrosamines to the environment should be avoided until the impact on ecosystems is assessed. During winter a less efficient mitigation of N-nitrosamines can be expected (lower biological activity, less sunligt) and therefore, emphasis should be put on this season in future risk assessment studies.
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