It is generally known that chlorine disinfection of drinking water that is derived from surface water leads to the formation of mutagenic compounds. A very significant portion (in some cases over 60%) of the mutagenicity has been attributed to the presence of various chlorohydroxyfuranones (CHFs). Besides producing mutagenicity in bacterial assays, the CHFs have been reported to alter the genetic properties of animal and human cells. Recently, one of the compounds, namely 3-chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone (MX), was shown to be a potent multiorgan carcinogen in rats. These findings have led to concern about the health effects associated with the mutagens in drinking water.
This paper is a short review of the work aiming at the identification of hydroxyfuranones and related compounds in disinfected drinking water. In addition, results are presented that show how change in water treatment practice is reflected in the mutagenicity of the drinking water and in the concentration of the main mutagen, 3-chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone (MX).