Risk assessment of exposure to volatile organic compounds in groundwater in Taiwan.

Department of Safety, Health, and Environmental Engineering, Mingchi University of Technology, Taipei County, Taiwan.
Science of The Total Environment (Impact Factor: 3.16). 02/2009; 407(7):2165-74. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.12.015
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The purpose of this study is to assess the risks from exposure to 14 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in selected groundwater sites in Taiwan. The study employs the multimedia environment pollutant assessment system (MEPAS) model to calculate the specific non-cancer and cancer risks at an exposure level of 1 microg/L of each VOC for a variety of exposure pathways. The results show that the highest specific non-cancer risk is associated with water ingestion of vinyl chloride (VC) and that the highest specific cancer risk is associated with indoor breathing of VC. The three most important exposure pathways for risk assessment for both non-cancer and cancer risks are identified as water ingestion, dermal absorption when showering, and indoor breathing. Excess tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), dichloroethylene (DCE), and VC are detected in the groundwater aquifers of one dump site and one factory. However, the study suggests that the pollutants in the contaminated groundwater aquifers do not travel extensively with groundwater flow and that the resulting VOC concentrations are below detectable levels for most of the sampled drinking-water treatment plants. Nevertheless, the non-cancer and cancer risks resulting from use of the contaminated groundwater are found to be hundred times higher than the general risk guidance values. To ensure safe groundwater utilisation, remediation initiatives for soil and groundwater are required. Finally, the study suggests that the current criteria for VOCs in drinking water might not be capable of ensuring public safety when groundwater is used as the primary water supply; more stringent quality criteria for drinking water are proposed for selected VOCs.

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