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Journal of Water and Health In Press, Uncorrected Proof © IWA Publishing 2011  |  doi:10.2166/wh.2011.165

Long-term study of migration of volatile organic compounds from cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes and effects on drinking water quality

Vidar Lund, Mary Anderson-Glenna, Ingun Skjevrak* and Inger-Lise Steffensen

Division of Environmental Medicine, Department of Water Hygiene, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, PO Box 4404 Nydalen, NO-0403 Oslo, Norway. E-mail: vidar.lund@fhi.no
Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet), Kyrkjevegen 325, NO-3428 Sandnes, Norway
*Presently at: Statoil ASA, NO-4035 Stavanger, Norway
Department of Food Safety and Nutrition, PO Box 4404 Nydalen, NO-0403 Oslo, Norway

First received 12 October 2010; accepted in revised form 21 February 2011. Available online 10 May 2011


The objectives of this study were to investigate migration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes used for drinking water produced by different production methods, and to evaluate their potential risk for human health and/or influence on aesthetic drinking water quality. The migration tests were carried out in accordance with EN-1420-1, and VOCs were analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The levels of VOC migrating from new PEX pipes were generally low, and decreasing with time of pipe use. No association was found between production method of PEX pipes and concentration of migration products. 2,4-di-tert-butyl phenol and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) were two of the major individual components detected. In three new PEX pipes, MTBE was detected in concentrations above the recommended US EPA taste and odour value for drinking water, but decreased below this value after 5 months in service. However, the threshold odour number (TON) values for two pipes were similar to new pipes even after 1 year in use. For seven chemicals for which conclusions on potential health risk could be drawn, this was considered of no or very low concern. However, odour from some of these pipes could negatively affect drinking water for up to 1 year.

Keywords: drinking water quality deterioration; migration of VOC; PEX pipes; risk assessment

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