Long-term study of migration of volatile organic compounds from cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes and effects on drinking water quality

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The objectives of this study were to investigate migration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes used for drinking water produced by different production methods, and to evaluate their potential risk for human health and/or influence on aesthetic drinking water quality. The migration tests were carried out in accordance with EN-1420-1, and VOCs were analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The levels of VOC migrating from new PEX pipes were generally low, and decreasing with time of pipe use. No association was found between production method of PEX pipes and concentration of migration products. 2,4-di-tert-butyl phenol and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) were two of the major individual components detected. In three new PEX pipes, MTBE was detected in concentrations above the recommended US EPA taste and odour value for drinking water, but decreased below this value after 5 months in service. However, the threshold odour number (TON) values for two pipes were similar to new pipes even after 1 year in use. For seven chemicals for which conclusions on potential health risk could be drawn, this was considered of no or very low concern. However, odour from some of these pipes could negatively affect drinking water for up to 1 year.

Keywords: drinking water quality deterioration, migration of VOC, PEX pipes, risk assessment

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