Use of mechanism-based structure-activity relationships analysis in carcinogenic potential ranking for drinking water disinfection by-products.
Disinfection by-products (DBPs) are formed when disinfectants such as chlorine, chloramine, and ozone react with organic and inorganic matter in water. The observations that some DBPs such as trihalomethanes (THMs), di-/trichloroacetic acids, and 3-chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone (MX) are carcinogenic in animal studies have raised public concern over the possible adverse health effects of DBPs. To date, several hundred DBPs have been identified. To prioritize research efforts, an in-depth, mechanism-based structure-activity relationship analysis, supplemented by extensive literature search for genotoxicity and other data, was conducted for ranking the carcinogenic potential of DBPs that met the following criteria: a) detected in actual drinking water samples, b) have insufficient cancer bioassay data for risk assessment, and c) have structural features/alerts or short-term predictive assays indicative of carcinogenic potential. A semiquantitative concern rating scale of low, marginal, low-moderate, moderate, high-moderate, and high was used along with delineation of scientific rationale. Of the 209 DBPs analyzed, 20 were of priority concern with a moderate or high-moderate rating. Of these, four were structural analogs of MX and five were haloalkanes that presumably will be controlled by existing and future THM regulations. The other eleven DBPs, which included halonitriles (6), haloketones (2), haloaldehyde (1), halonitroalkane (1), and dialdehyde (1), are suitable priority candidates for future carcinogenicity testing and/or mechanistic studies.