Breaking News
January 19, 2019 - Highly effective protocol to prepare cannabis samples for THC/CBD analysis
January 19, 2019 - Prinston Pharmaceutical Inc. Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Irbesartan and Irbesartan HCTZ Tablets Due to Detection of a Trace Amount of Unexpected Impurity, N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) in the Products
January 19, 2019 - How does solid stress from brain tumors cause neuronal loss, neurologic dysfunction?
January 19, 2019 - $14.7 million partnership to supercharge vaccine development
January 19, 2019 - Ian Fotheringham receives Charles Tennant Memorial Lecture award
January 19, 2019 - Brain vital signs detect neurophysiological impairments in players with concussions
January 19, 2019 - Lack of job and poor housing conditions increased likelihood of people attending A&E
January 19, 2019 - Novel targeted drug delivery system improves conventional cancer treatments
January 19, 2019 - Rutgers study finds gene responsible for spread of prostate cancer
January 19, 2019 - Complications Higher Than Expected for Invasive Lung Tests
January 19, 2019 - 3-D printed implant promotes nerve cell growth to treat spinal cord injury
January 19, 2019 - Automated texts lead to improved outcomes after total knee or hip replacement surgery
January 19, 2019 - Poor cardiorespiratory fitness could increase risk of future heart attack, finds new study
January 19, 2019 - Drinking soft drinks while exercising in hot weather may increase risk of kidney disease
January 19, 2019 - Formlabs 3D prints anatomical models
January 19, 2019 - Heart-Healthy Living Also Wards Off Type 2 Diabetes
January 19, 2019 - Teaching Kids to Be Smart About Social Media (for Parents)
January 19, 2019 - Metabolite produced by gut microbiota from pomegranates reduces inflammatory bowel disease
January 19, 2019 - Researchers examine how spray from showers and toilets expose us to disease causing bacteria
January 19, 2019 - Behavioral experiments confirm that additional neurons improve brain function
January 19, 2019 - New study compares performance of real-time infectious disease forecasting models
January 19, 2019 - Obesity can be risk factor for developing renal cell carcinoma, confirms study
January 19, 2019 - New regulation designs on cigarette packs direct smokers’ attention to health warnings
January 19, 2019 - QIAGEN receives first companion diagnostic approval in Japan
January 19, 2019 - Study explores role of Dunning-Kruger effect in anti-vaccine attitudes
January 19, 2019 - Newly identified subset of immune cells may be key to fighting chronic inflammation
January 19, 2019 - New immune response regulators discovered
January 18, 2019 - Poor blood oxygenation during sleep predicts chance of heart-related death
January 18, 2019 - First international consensus on the diagnosis and management of fibromuscular dysplasia
January 18, 2019 - Rapid resistance gene sequencing technology can hasten identification of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop artificial enzymatic pathway for synthesizing isoprenoids in E. coli
January 18, 2019 - Scientists advise caution in immunotherapy research
January 18, 2019 - How children across the world develop language
January 18, 2019 - Columbia Medical Student Receives McDonogh Scholarship
January 18, 2019 - Secretive ‘Rebate Trap’ Keeps Generic Drugs For Diabetes And Other Ills Out Of Reach
January 18, 2019 - Plant based diet could be the best option for the planet says commission
January 18, 2019 - New conservation practice could reduce nitrogen from agricultural drainage, study shows
January 18, 2019 - UIC researchers receive $1.7 million NCI grant to study Southeast Asian fruit
January 18, 2019 - New study determines the fate of DNA derived from genetically modified food
January 18, 2019 - Scientists develop new gene therapy that prevents axon destruction in mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds critically low HPV vaccination rates among younger adolescents in the U.S.
January 18, 2019 - Brain cells involved in memory play key role in reducing future eating behavior
January 18, 2019 - Risk for Conversion of MS Varies With Different Therapies
January 18, 2019 - Investigational cream may help patients with inflammatory skin disease
January 18, 2019 - Medical school news office receives six writing awards | News Center
January 18, 2019 - County By County, Researchers Link Opioid Deaths To Drugmakers’ Marketing
January 18, 2019 - Research reveals risk for developing more than one mental health disorder
January 18, 2019 - Scientists discover a dramatic pattern of bone growth in female mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds link between lengthy periods of undisturbed maternal sleep and stillbirths
January 18, 2019 - New nuclear medicine method could improve detection of primary and metastatic melanoma
January 18, 2019 - Combination therapy shows high efficacy in treating people with leishmaniasis and HIV
January 18, 2019 - Health Tip: Don’t Ignore Changes in Skin Color
January 18, 2019 - Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
January 18, 2019 - Eliminating the latent reservoir of HIV
January 18, 2019 - Pain From The Government Shutdown Spreads. This Time It’s Food Stamps
January 18, 2019 - Newly discovered regulatory mechanism helps control fat metabolism
January 18, 2019 - New rapid blood tests could speed up TB diagnosis, save the NHS money
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop intelligent system for ‘tuning’ powered prosthetic knees
January 18, 2019 - Monoclonal antibody pembrolizumab prolongs survival in patients with squamous cell carcinoma
January 18, 2019 - New research detects mosquito known to transmit malaria for the first time in Ethiopia
January 18, 2019 - Researchers identify new genes linked to development of age-related macular degeneration
January 18, 2019 - Computerized method helps better protect pharma patents
January 18, 2019 - New guidelines to make swallowing safer for people in Australian nursing homes
January 18, 2019 - Lumex Instruments’ RA-915AM monitor installed at Hg treatment plant in Almadén, Spain
January 18, 2019 - ACCC survey finds multiple threats to growth of cancer programs
January 18, 2019 - Meeting the challenge of engaging men in HIV prevention and treatment
January 18, 2019 - Furloughed Feds’ Health Coverage Intact, But Shutdown Still Complicates Things
January 18, 2019 - Experts discuss various aspects on health risks posed by fumigated containers
January 18, 2019 - Researchers use gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to limit impact of parasitic diseases
January 18, 2019 - Alpha neurofeedback training could be a means of enhancing learning success
January 18, 2019 - Innovative ‘light’ method demonstrates positive results in fight against malignant tumors
January 18, 2019 - The cytoskeleton of neurons found to play role in Alzheimer’s disease
January 18, 2019 - New resource-based approach to improve HIV care in low- and middle-income countries
January 18, 2019 - Bedfont appoints Dr Jafar Jafari as first member of the Gastrolyzer Medical Advisory Board
January 18, 2019 - New study shows link between secondhand smoke and cardiac arrhythmia
January 18, 2019 - DZIF scientists reveal problems with available diagnostics for Zika and chikungunya virus
January 18, 2019 - Breast cancers more likely to metastasize in young women within 10 years of giving birth
January 18, 2019 - Over 5.6 million Americans exposed to high nitrate levels in drinking water
January 18, 2019 - Blood vessels can now be created perfectly in a petri dish
January 18, 2019 - Study identifies prominent socioeconomic and racial disparities in health behavior in Indiana
Can GAC Be Used to Control Priority Unregulated DBPs in Drinking Water?

Can GAC Be Used to Control Priority Unregulated DBPs in Drinking Water?

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

An interview with Professor Susan Richardson, conducted by Stuart Milne, BA

Your presentation at Pittcon focussed on GAC for controlling priority unregulated disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water. What are the current challenges associated with unregulated DBPs in drinking water?

The US EPA currently regulates only 11 disinfection by-products, DBPs, in drinking water, but we have identified, more than 700. Many scientists, myself included, believe that the human health effects that we see in epidemiologic studies, may be related to some of the more toxic, unregulated DBPs that are not controlled currently through drinking water regulations.

© Bulgn/

Why has granular activated carbon (GAC) received renewed interest compared to other methods?

We have known about GAC for around 30 years, and there has been a lot of promising research on it, but despite this, in many cases it has not been put in place as many people think that it would be too expensive to switch to GAC. Instead, a number of drinking water treatment plants have switched disinfectants, for example from using chlorine to chloramine, to lower the levels of regulated DBPs. By switching disinfectants in this way, plants that previously struggled to meet regulations can become compliant.  

However, we have noticed that potentially hazardous DBPs can occur as a result of the switch, including NDMA, nitrosodimethylamine, a very potent carcinogen. So now, the U.S. EPA and the research community are thinking of how to reach a suitable solution by going back to square one and asking the initial question – are there ways we can remove the precursor material better to prevent DBP formation, and ultimately lower the level of DBPs?

There has been some indication that brominated species may increase in formation when using GAC. What research have you done to investigate the ability of GAC to remove unregulated DBPs?

Earlier studies indicated that two regulated brominated trihalomethanes increased with the use of GAC. However, no research had been done beyond that to look at other brominated DBPs, ones that are more toxic than regulated DBPs.

That’s where we came in – we took about 60 unregulated priority DBPs, developed analytical methods for them, measured them with and without GAC, and with different types of GAC. We also experimented with different disinfectants, with and without prechlorination, and even using chloramination.

We’re investigating, for the first time, a really broad sweep of DBPs, including the really toxic brominated ones, to understand if GAC will work for them.

What analytical techniques have you used to investigate these DBPs?

We use gas chromatography with mass spectrometry, GC-MS, and also GC-MS/MS, tandem mass spectrometry. Another tool that we use is a total organic halogen (TOX) analyzer. With the TOX analyzer, we can measure not only the DBPs that we know are in the drinking water, but it also accounts for the chlorinated, brominated, and iodinated material that we don’t about and can’t measure yet.

In general, the brominated and iodinated DBPs are much more toxic than the chlorinated ones, so the total organic halogen analysis gives us an idea of what’s there (beyond the things we can measure). And, with the 60 DBPs that we are quantifying, we’re able to get a very comprehensive measurement of the DBPs.

Ultimately, our aim is to make drinking water safer, and so we want to find out if GAC can do this.

What impact does the age of GAC and types of GAC have on filtering DBPs in drinking water?

The aging of GAC is much like how we expect the material in our home water filters to age – after a while, you need to change it.  GAC at a drinking water treatment plant is like having a huge Brita filter.

Sites within the filter get filled up with material as it sorbs and removes unwanted materials from your water, to the point where they stop removing DBP precursors as effectively – then it’s time to regenerate that GAC.

Does GAC offer a long-term solution for reducing levels of unregulated DBPs in drinking water?

I would say so, especially as we saw such good results with it. Some of the plants we looked at were reducing the DBP levels by as much as 80% with a young GAC filter.

It is worth noting that in some cases however, we did see an increase in some brominated DBPs that were toxic, just like the early work that saw two of the brominated trihalomethanes increase. But overall, when we looked at it across the board, it’s still a beneficial route to take in producing safer water.

What are the next steps in your research?

Although we were able to measure the DBPs and the total organic halogen under all kinds of scenarios in our research, we were limited by our funding in that we were not able to get real toxicology testing – instead, we calculated the in vitro cytotoxicity using the measured DBPs that we have, and using the cytotoxicity potencies that we know of from other studies.

Therefore, our next steps are to have real toxicity involved in our work, combining the chemistry and comprehensive toxicology.

What did you gain from attending Pittcon 2018 and discussing your research?

I love sharing my research with others, it’s good to inform others on the work we are doing.

If I’m able to educate people with my talk at Pittcon, that GAC is a good way to go, then maybe others will promote that in their utilities and share their new knowledge with people they know in the field.

I also attend Pittcon to learn, too. I learned about new analytical techniques, new developments, new findings. It’s always exciting to come to conferences and learn new things. That’s a big part of it!

Where can we find more information?

About Prof. Susan Richardson

Susan D. Richardson is the Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina.  Prior to coming to USC in January 2014, she was a Research Chemist for several years at the U.S. EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in Athens, GA.  For the last several years, Susan has been conducting research in drinking water—specifically in the study of toxicologically important disinfection by-products (DBPs).

Susan is the recipient of the 2008 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advancements in Environmental Science & Technology, has received an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University in Canada (2006), was recently recognized as an ACS Fellow (2016), and was recently elected Vice President / President Elect of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (2018).

She also serves as an Associate Editor of Environmental Science & Technology and for Water Research and is on the Editorial Advisory Board of Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, and Journal of Environmental Sciences.  Susan has published more than 140 journal articles and book chapters and has written many invited biennial reviews for the journal Analytical Chemistry—on Emerging Contaminants in Water Analysis and Environmental Mass Spectrometry, She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Emory University and a B.S. in Chemistry & Mathematics from Georgia College & State University.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles