Identifying and Minimizing Carcinogen Formation in Recycled Wastewater

Extreme water shortages in California and other arid regions have renewed interest in wastewater recycling. Objective risk assessments of human health hazards from recycled water consumption indicate that the major chemical risk comes from disinfection byproducts (DBPs). DBPs are compounds that form as a result of reactions between chemical or ultraviolet disinfectants and organic precursors. Our research focuses on identifying the chemical precursors and formation mechanisms of priority DBPs, and employing this knowledge to minimize their formation to ensure safe wastewater reuse

Expanding the Disinfectant Arsenal

Despite over 100 years of chemical disinfection of drinking water, disinfectant options are very limited. Only six chemical oxidants are ever used as disinfectants in full-scale water treatment, despite hundreds available to synthetic chemists. Many synthetic oxidants are acutely toxic to humans and unsuitable for potable use, but one option, catalytic activation of dissolved oxygen, shows promise for sustainable disinfection and contaminant oxidation.