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Mutat Res. 2001 Aug 22;495(1-2):157-68.

Human cell mutagenicity of chlorinated and unchlorinated water and the disinfection byproduct 3-chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone (MX).

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  • 1Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, 018 Anderson Hall, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA.


Extracts of three water samples--humic acid-enriched water-both peatland water and drinking water, both with and without chlorination were tested for mutagenicity at the tk locus in MCL-5 cells, a line of human B-lymphoblastoid cells that express cytochrome P450 enzymes and microsomal epoxide hydrolase. Our results show that chlorination caused a 5.5-fold increase (P<0.0001) in the mutagenicity of the humic acid-enriched water. The unchlorinated peatland water was mutagenic at the two highest doses (240 and 480 microg equivalent total organic carbon (TOC)/ml), possibly due to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) that were measured in the peat. In contrast, the chlorinated peatland water was non-mutagenic at low doses, while at the highest dose (240 microg equivalent TOC/ml) the sample was so toxic that an insufficient number of cells survived treatment to allow plating. The chlorinated and unchlorinated drinking water were both non-mutagenic. 3-Chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone (MX), a potent bacterial mutagen and chlorine-disinfection byproduct, was also tested in MCL-5 cells as well as in two other human B-lymphoblastoid cell-lines, AHH-1 TK+/- and h1A1v2 cells, which differ from each other and from MCL-5 cells in the amounts of cytochrome P450 enzymes they can express. MX was mutagenic to all three cell-lines, but there was no apparent correlation between cytochrome P450 enzyme expression and the mutagenicity of MX. Overall, our results show that samples of chlorinated humic acid-enriched water and MX, a model chlorine-disinfection byproduct, are moderately mutagenic to human cells.

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