Occurrence of organophosphate flame retardants in drinking water from China

Jun Li, Nanyang Yu, Beibei Zhang, Ling Jin, Meiying Li, Mengyang Hu, Xiaowei Zhang, Si Wei, Hongxia Yu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

264 Citations (Scopus)


Several organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) have been identified as known or suspected carcinogens or neurotoxic substances. Given the potential health risks of these compounds, we conducted a comprehensive survey of nine OPFRs in drinking water in China. We found total concentrations of OPFRs in tap water ranging from 85.1ng/L to 325ng/L, and tris(2-butoxyethyl) phosphate (TBEP), triphenyl phosphate (TPP), and tris(2-chloroisopropyl) phosphate (TCPP) were the most common components. Similar OPFR concentrations and profiles were observed in water samples processed through six different waterworks in Nanjing, China. However, boiling affected OPFR levels in drinking water by either increasing (e.g., TBEP) or decreasing (e.g., tributyl phosphate, TBP) concentrations depending on the particular compound and the state of the indoor environment. We also found that bottled water contained many of the same major OPFR compounds with concentrations 10-25% lower than those in tap water, although TBEP contamination in bottled water remained a concern. Finally, we concluded that the risk of ingesting OPFRs through drinking water was not a major health concern for either adults or children in China. Nevertheless, drinking water ingestion represents an important exposure pathway for OPFRs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Boiling
  • Drinking water
  • Health risk
  • Organophosphate flame retardants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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