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Drinking water nitrosamines in a large metropolitan region in Brazil

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Nitrosamines are a concerning group of carcinogens, which have gained increasing attention over the last years, frequently found in drinking and recycled water systems. In this work, an analytical method was developed for the detection and quantification of seven nitrosamines (NDMA, NMEA, NPYR, NDEA, NPIP, NDPA, and NDBA) in drinking water. The method is based on gas chromatography coupled with a single quadrupole mass spectrometer (GC-MS) with electron ionization (EI) mode. Sample enrichment and matrix cleanup by solid-phase extraction (SPE) were performed using the US EPA Method 521 cartridge packed with coconut-based charcoal. The simple method allowed reliable identification and quantification of nitrosamines in the water at nanogram per liter levels. The optimized method was validated at three concentration levels (20, 100, and 200 ng L−1) in ultrapure and drinking water samples. Average recoveries were 63–87% for ultrapure water and 38–79% for drinking water with relative standard deviations (RSD) below 10% for both matrices. Method detection limits were 1.23–3.14 ng L−1. The described method was applied to eighteen drinking water samples collected from 13 cities of the Metropolitan Region of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil). NDMA was the most frequent nitrosamine detected (89% of samples) and had the highest concentration level found (67 ng L−1). The levels of nitrosamines found in drinking water samples are of considerable relevance since the selected area is a major urban center that has amply expanded industrial and agricultural activities over the last few decades. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evaluation of nitrosamines in drinking water conducted in Brazil to date.

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Most data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information file.


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The authors are also thankful to CNPq for the master’s degree scholarship. The authors also thank Paulo Henrique Prado Stefano.


This work was financed by São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP, Grant N. 2014/24740-6 and 17/25490-1), the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq, Grant N. 400182/2016-5 and 302748/2018-0), and the National Institute of Advanced Analytical Sciences and Technologies (INCTAA, CNPq Grant N. 465768/2014-8 and FAPESP Grant N. 2014/50951-4). Beatriz De Caroli Vizioli acknowledges the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for the master’s degree scholarship.

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B.C.V., L.W.H., and C.C.M. contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by B.C.V. All samples were analyzed by B.C.V. The first draft of the manuscript was written by B.C.V. and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Cassiana Carolina Montagner.

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Vizioli, B.D., Hantao, L.W. & Montagner, C.C. Drinking water nitrosamines in a large metropolitan region in Brazil. Environ Sci Pollut Res 28, 32823–32830 (2021).

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