Many disinfection by-products (DBPs) are formed during water chlorination, including trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). Disinfection with chloramines is often used to reduce the production of regulated DBPs. However, chloramination can lead to the formation of N–nitrosamines, including N–nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a probable human carcinogen. The formation mechanisms of NDMA are not fully understood. Proposed mechanisms used dimethylamine (DMA) as a model precursor, but results show that certain widely used tertiary dimethylamines (e.g. the pharmaceutical ranitidine) show much higher conversion rates to NDMA than DMA. These amounts of NDMA cannot be explained by current proposed mechanisms. New formation mechanisms have to be proposed to explain the importance of structural characteristics of tertiary amines for NDMA formation.

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