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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Formation of N-Nitrosodiethanolamine from Diethanolamine in Lake Water and Sewage1


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 10 No. 3, p. 266-270
    Received: Aug 27, 1980

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  1. Jerry R. Yordy and
  2. Martin Alexander2



A thin-layer chromatographic method using a 14C-labeled secondary amine was used to measure the possible formation of nitrosamines in samples of natural waters and sewage. The lower limit of sensitivity was 1 ng of nitrosamine/ml.

Formation of N-nitrosodiethanolamine from diethanolamine in lake water and sewage was demonstrated, with the identity of the product verified by combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The greatest amount of the carcinogenic nitrosamine was generated in sewage, considerably less was produced in Caynga Lake water, and the least amount was formed in water from an acid lake. The amount of nitrosamine formed was related to the amount of diethanolamine added and the nitrite level in samples of the environments. Autoclaved samples of sewage and Cayuga Lake water either did not produce N-nitrosodiethanolamine or formed it at rates much lower than in nonsterile samples, suggesting a role for microorganisms or some other heat-labile factor in the formation of the nitroso compound. The nitrosamine could be metabolized in all three environments, but it persisted in lake water samples taken in the winter.

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