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Organic Chemistry


The contaminants-in-drinking-water list in this website include some ferocious-looking and possibly confusing organic compounds.  What follows is an attempt to give a casual reader a better understanding of the naming and structure of organic compounds that might be found in drinking water.  This is not a treatise on organic chemistry, it is not exhaustive, it does not pretend to cover all organic compounds or concepts, nor does it discuss chemical interactions.  It is basically descriptive, meant for someone with a general knowledge of science and none of organic chemistry.  It does assume that you have read the preceding sections on Physics and Inorganic Chemistry.

The Carbon Atom

The second electron shell of the carbon atom can hold eight electrons but, in carbon, that shell is only half full. In order to reach a shell balance, the carbon atom will make four bonds with other elements but has no strong preference for either accepting or donating electrons, rather, it shares electrons with other atoms to form covalent bonds. If carbon is in a compound, it will always have four bonds. The bonds that it shares are oriented at the corners of a tetrahedron (triangular pyramid). Ideally, the angle between one carbon bond and any other of its bonds is 120°. Sometimes, carbon may share two bonds (double bonds) with another single atom or even three bonds (triple bonds). If it forms a double bond, the two bonds are closer together which makes a double bond less stable and easier to break. A triple bond would be even more unstable and even easier to break. Four bonds with a single other atom do not exist.

Some elements will form pairs of atoms of the same element, creating what are known as diatomic (two atoms, same element) molecules. Common examples include O2, Cl2, H2, and N2. Oxygen will even form rather unstable (very reactive) triplets known as ozone (O3). A carbon atom, however, is unique in that it can form bonds with as many as four other carbons, even forming double or triple bonds with another carbon, which can link to yet more carbons to create a huge diversity of what can be incredibly complicated carbon compounds. The number and diversity of carbon compounds is so large that the study of compounds in chemistry is divided into two great sub-disciplines: Organic Chemistry (the carbon compounds) and Inorganic Chemistry (everything else).

Carbon stands at the head of the 14th column of the Periodic Table, a column which also includes silicon, immediately below it, followed by germanium, tin, and lead. Elements in the same column share properties so it should be no surprise that all of those elements form four bonds but only carbon will bond with another carbon because the atoms of those other elements are simply too large, even silicon, to link with another atom of the same element.

The ability of carbon to make many diverse compounds is extremely important to life as we know it, so much so that organic chemistry is an integral part of biology which is why carbon compounds are ‘organic.’ There are several very simple carbon compounds that are not considered to be ‘organic’ such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) but the vast majority of carbon compounds are created by and are evidence of some living thing. There is a gray area for the origin of some carbon compounds in the same sense as when does a nonliving coacervate droplet become a living cell? Experiments and observations have now shown that even a simple sugar can be created ‘non-organically’ in space without the involvement of any life, but, at least on Earth, all of those wonderful organic compounds are, today, pretty much the sole province of some life activity.

Methane and Other Hydrocarbons

A hydrocarbon, as the name suggests, is a compound of carbon and hydrogen and nothing else; it is a category of organic compounds. The simplest hydrocarbon is Methane, CH4, but, since a carbon can link to other carbons, there are a huge quantity of hydrocarbons possible with an almost infinite number of carbons. An organic compound which is a hydrocarbon is shown by its name which ends with the suffix, –ane. The prefix indicates how many carbons are involved in the compound, the first ten being: methane (1 carbon), ethane (2), propane (3), butane (4), pentane (5), hexane (6), heptane (7), octane (8, sound familiar?), nonane (9), and decane (10). Gasoline is usually a mix of octane, nonane, and decane (with some ethyl alcohol and minor additives). As the number of carbons increases, the compounds progress from being gases to liquids, to solids. Some common hydrocarbons which have more than ten carbons include: kerosene, diesel fuel/heating oil, and asphalt.

Categorizing Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons can be broadly subdivided into two subcategories: Aliphatic (chains of carbons and simple rings) and Aromatic (based on the benzene ring (of which more later). Aliphatic hydrocarbons can be further subdivided into: Alkanes (single bonds only), Alkenes (at least one double bond), Alkynes (at least one triple bond), and Cyclic (usually a simple hexagon ring). The aliphatic hydrocarbon compounds (or organic compounds with other elements based on hydrocarbons) discussed in this website are limited to simple alkanes, two alkenes, and one cyclic (hexagon ring).

Formulas and Nomenclature

In order to understand hydrocarbons (and other organic compounds), it is important, not only to know the simple chemical formula, but to know the structural formula of the compound because, even with the exact same number of carbons and hydrogens, how they are arranged can affect their properties. The general simple chemical formula for an alkane is CnH2n+2 where n is the number of carbons in the hydrocarbon. The chemical formula for butane, then, is C4H10 but there is a problem because the carbons could be connected to each other in two different ways, each with the same chemical formula.


Imagine that the four carbons are connected in a line with the two carbons in the middle of the line connected to two other carbons and the two end carbons connected to only one other carbon.  Such a configuration would be clearly shown in a structural formula but there are variations of structural formulas.  One such would look like this:

Chemical structural formula example

All of the carbons and hydrogens are shown in this version of a structural formula, clearly showing how they relate to one another, but the image is misleading in two respects:  (1) The carbons are not really linked in a straight line but rather in something that looks like a zig-zag line because of the orientation of the bonds of the carbon.  (2) This is a two-dimensional image of something that is really three-dimensional; some of those bonds would rise above the plane of the paper and some would project below it.  With those caveats in mind, however, this structural formula does include the information necessary to distinguish between different configurations in a way that a chemical formula cannot.

Before considering the other configuration (isomer), note that there are other variations of a structural formula. One short-hand version looks like a sawtooth blade with, in this case, four zig-zag lines and no Cs or Hs. You have to assume that at the end of each line or where two lines meet, there is a carbon atom. Since a carbon atom shares four bonds with something else, where two lines meet, you assume that there are also two hydrogens attached to the carbon at the juncture of the lines. Where there is a carbon at the end of a line, you assume that, because carbon has four bonds but only one is shown, there are also three hydrogens attached to that carbon; any missing bond is assumed to be a bond to a hydrogen. The zig-zag sawtooth depiction is closer to how the carbons are actually linked and it saves you what could be a very tedious and messy drawing of many, many hydrogens.


There is a sort of hybrid between a chemical formula and a structural formula. In order to give some indication of the configuration of the carbons, the formula, instead of C4H10, could be written CH3CH2CH2CH3 which would indicate that the carbons are in a line. The formula might be shortened to CH3(CH2)2CH3 which still indicates the carbons are arranged in a line which doesn’t seem to save much on writing the formula but which can be much shorter for longer chains like octane which could be written CH3(CH2)6CH3 instead of CH3CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH3. Note that, although the hydrogens are written between the carbons, they form separate bonds with the carbon to their left; it is not C–H–H–H–C, etc.; the first carbon would be short three bonds and hydrogen does not form two bonds.

The isomer (configuration) discussed above (the ‘straight’ chain) can be indicated in the name thusly: n-butane. The ’n’ stands for ‘normal,’ that the carbons are linked in a (kinked) line. The other isomer? Using yet another variation on a structural formula, the other isomer could be depicted as:

Chemical structural formula

This second, nonlinear isomer, is called isobutane.  

Butane is the first in the hydrocarbon sequence that can have more than one configuration (isomer); the carbons in methane, ethane, and propane can only be arranged one way.  If you go beyond butane, the number of possible isomers multiplies and naming those isomers can get quite interesting (more later). 

Functional Groups

It is often useful in organic chemistry to think of more complicated organic compounds as being an assembly of smaller parts, something frequently reflected in the name of the more complicated compounds. These smaller parts (functional groups) are not compounds in themselves because they have a free (unconnected bond) which can be linked to the free bond of another functional group; the combination then becomes a true compound with no hanging (free) bonds. One simple way to make a functional group is take a compound that has a hydrogen in it and pull off the hydrogen. What is left is not a compound, it has a free bond, it is a functional group. One good example is water. Pull one hydrogen off of water and you have –OH which, in inorganic chemistry, would be called a hydroxide anion and be written as OH–. In organic chemistry, it becomes –OH and is called a hydroxyl functional group (note the –yl ending).

You could do the same to methane, CH4, which would become –CH3, known as a methyl group. Ethane, C2H6, minus one hydrogen, would become an ethyl group and so on. For those hydrocarbons with more than one isomer, assume that the straight (kinked) line (normal) isomer is meant unless an isomer name is used. Remember isobutane? One of its carbons has three other carbons attached to it plus one hydrogen. Pull off that one hydrogen and it becomes a tert-butyl functional group; ‘tert’ is short for ‘tertiary’ (third) which means that this carbon is already attached to three other carbons (this is mentioned because one of the compounds discussed on this website has a tert-butyl functional group).

There are many other functional groups, some of which are parts of organic compounds and some of which are fragments of inorganic compounds (the hydroxyl group is an example of the latter). Some other examples of groups derived from inorganic compounds, groups which do not necessarily end in –yl, include: –NO2 (nitro), –ClO2 (chlorite), and –BrO3 (the latter two of which are parameters in the contaminants section of this website because they can be produced by the disinfection of water).

In addition to the nitro, nitrogen can form amines (amine is the noun, amino is the adjective). Although nitrogen can form as many as five bonds (such as in nitric acid, HNO3), in organic chemistry it almost always forms three bonds. You could start with ammonia (NH3), remove one hydrogen, and convert it into a primary amino group, –NH2. Suppose, however, that, instead of being linked to two hydrogens, one of the bonds of that amino group is linked to another group. A simple example would be –NHCH3; the amino group is attached to a methyl group which would make the amino a secondary amino group (it has only one hydrogen). Of course, that second group doesn’t have to be a methyl group.

It is the convention in organic chemistry that R is used to indicate another unspecified functional group (usually organic); note that R does not stand for any element which is why it is used. Should that last hydrogen be replaced by yet another group (not hydrogen), that could be indicated with R’ meaning that R and R’ don’t have to be the same. A tertiary amino could generically be indicated as –NRR’. One specific example is –N(CH3)CH2CH3; the tertiary amine is attached to a methyl group and an ethyl group; the parentheses around the methyl group indicate that the methyl group has its own, separate bond with the nitrogen, plus, a methyl group has only one bond which must, then, be attached to the nitrogen, not to the carbon that follows it.

Two very important groups in the water business are the inorganic chloride (–Cl) and bromide (–Br). These two groups (anions in inorganic chemistry) replace hydrogens in many organic compounds to make many of the organic compounds discussed in the contaminants section of this website. The best place to start is with methane itself.

The Halogenation of Methane

First, a quick review of ‘halogen.’ Halogens are the elements in column 17 of the Periodic Table and include: fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and beyond. In the water business, chlorine and bromine are normally the important halogens so we will ignore the others. Trihalomethane means that you start with a methane (CH4) and replace three (tri-) of its hydrogens with a halogen (-halo-; chloride or bromide). Trichloromethane, aka chloroform, is more specific, it is a subset of Trihalomethane in which the three hydrogens are replaced with chlorides (–Cl), producing CHCl3. If you replace all four hydrogens with chloride, you have Carbon Tetrachloride (tetra = four), CCl4. If only two hydrogens are replaced with chlorides, you have Dichloromethane (di- means two), CH2Cl2, aka methylene chloride. These compounds are a possible consequence of the chlorination of water.

Two Alkenes and an Ether

An ether is defined by an oxygen bridge between two functional groups: R–O–R’. An example of a simple ether would be methyl ethyl ether which you should be able to figure out is CH3–O–CH2CH3. A more complicated ether is methyl tert-butyl ether or MTBE (here is that tert-butyl functional group mentioned earlier). Its structural formula is:

Methyl tert-butyl ether structural formula

Recognize the functional groups?

Ethylene, C2H4, is the simplest alkene (a hydrocarbon with a double bond). If you replace three of the four hydrogens with chlorides, you have Trichloroethylene, C2HCl3. If you replace all of the four hydrogens with chlorides, you have Tetrachloroethylene (tetra means four), C2Cl4. These compounds are yet another possible consequence of the chlorination of water.

Ethylene,  Trichloroethylene, Tetrachloroethylene structural formulas

A Cyclic Aliphatic Compound

As you might expect, there are quite a few isomers of hexane, C6H14 but there is another hexane which is not an isomer – it is cyclohexane, C6H12. Note that cyclohexane has two fewer hydrogens than hexane; this is because the two ends of hexane are joined to form a hexagon. In order to do that, you have to remove a hydrogen from each end of a hexane and then join the ends together. Each carbon now has two hydrogens attached to it. Replace one hydrogen from each carbon with a chloride to produce hexachlorocyclohexane. The very name says it: six (hexa) chlorides on a hexane ring.

But there is one more complication.  This is one of those instances in which the three-dimensional aspect is important.  Those chlorides project either above or below the plane of the hexagon (the hexagon is not really flat either but it doesn’t matter here).  There are a number of possible configurations, of combinations in which some chlorides project upward and some project downward (and it matters).  Take a hexagon and orient it so that one corner of the hexagon points toward the top of the paper.  Starting from that top corner, number each point clockwise from one to six.  Gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (aka Lindane, a brand name) is the configuration in which the chlorides at 1 and 4 project below the plane of the hexagon and the chlorides at 2, 3, 5, and 6 project upward.  

In an attempt to convey this 3D aspect of the compound, the bonds that project upward are drawn as very narrow triangles that grow thicker toward the chloride, supposedly to make the chloride look closer to the observer.  The bonds that project downward are drawn with a series of short lines that narrow towards the chloride in an attempt to make it look farther away.  Other configurations (alpha, beta, etc.) are less stable or have less desirable properties (Lindane is an insecticide). 

Hexagon chemical formula


As mentioned earlier, organic compounds can be divided into two great divisions, Aliphatic and Aromatic. The latter got its name from the fact that many aromatic compounds do have a distinct odor, although many do not. Loosely put, the aromatics are based on variations and extensions of the six-carbon benzene ring which is hexagonal but should not be confused with cyclohexane; Cyclohexane has only single bonds between the carbons in the ring whereas benzene has alternating double bonds between the carbons. Each carbon in cyclohexane (C6H12) is bonded with two hydrogens in contrast to benzene (C6H6) in which each carbon is linked to only one hydrogen.


The alternating double bonds of the carbons in Benzene literally do alternate (resonate), constantly shifting back and forth. In drawing the structural formula of benzene, however, usually only one configuration is shown because it would be a real pain showing the resonance, giving the false impression that the bonds are static; you should simply recognize, whenever you see the alternating bonds, that they do resonate. Sometimes, the structural formula is drawn as a simple hexagon without showing any double bonds, with a large circle inside the hexagon. The circle indicates that there are alternating double bonds that resonate.

Modifying Benzene to Make Some Simple New Compounds

One way to make a new compound from benzene is to substitute (replace) one of the hydrogens with a functional group (a generic –R). If the functional group (–R) is a hydroxyl (–OH), you get phenol; a methyl group (–CH3) makes it Toluene, a nitro group (–NO2) produces nitrobenzene, and an ethyl group (–CH2CH3) changes benzene into Ethylbenzene.

You could add a second functional group to the benzene ring but now it can make a difference as to where, in relation to the first substitution, you attach the second group; there are three possible configurations.  In drawing the structural formula, as with cyclohexane, arrange the hexagon with one corner pointing toward the top of the paper, label that corner ‘1,’ and, going clockwise, consecutively number the other corners up to six.  If you have two methyl groups attached to the benzene ring, you have a Xylene (aka dimethyl benzene).  The three xylene variations (isomers) can be distinguished as 1,2 xylene, 1,3 xylene, and 1,4 xylene (note that 1,2 xylene is the same as 1,6 xylene, etc.).  Sometimes an alternate naming system is used in that the 1,2 configuration is called ‘ortho,’ the 1,3 is ‘meta,’ and the 1,4 is ‘para.’  Note also that the second group does not have to be the same as the first.  

Why stop at two groups?  You could put three nitro groups on a benzene ring to produce trinitrotoluene, better known as TNT.  The TNT configuration shown below is actually 1,3,5 trinitrotoluene. 

Modifying Benzene to Make Some Complicated New Compounds

As you might imagine, there are a huge number of organic compounds that can be made by modifications of and additions to a benzene ring but we will show only two from the website contaminant list, Alachor and Bis (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate.

Name That Compound

‘Alachlor’ is a trade name (there can be more than one trade name) which illustrates a problem in organic chemistry: name that compound. You have already seen some examples of several different names for the same compound, such as xylene, aka dimethyl benzene. Then there are acronyms: MTBE = methyl tert-butyl ether. And now we have trade names. In an attempt to create some order out of what could be a nomenclature chaos, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) publishes a recommended list of preferred names for organic compounds (the IUPAC name). Sometimes the IUPAC name is too unwieldy and, therefore, not much used. Nevertheless, you can still expect to find multiple names in use for the same organic compound. Another organization, the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS), produces a unique CAS Registry Number for every organic compound, something quite useful for professional chemists.


The IUPAC name for Alachlor is 2-Chloro-N-(2,6-diethylphenyl)-N-(methoxymethyl)acetamide (you can certainly see why everyone but a chemist would prefer to use ‘alachlor’), but the IUPAC name can be used to construct a structural formula for the compound. The CAS number for alachlor is 15972-60-8 (you can find this compound on the net with this CAS number). The simple chemical formula for alachlor is C14H20ClNO2 which includes five elements (and, yes, there is a rule about in what order the elements should be in the formula). Unfortunately, such a formula includes no information whatsoever about how an alachlor molecule might look; we need the structural formula shown below.

Bis (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate (aka BEHP)

This complicated organic compound illustrates another useful principle in naming the compound. You could think of BEHP as being made of five functional groups: a phthalate group, two ethyl groups, and two hexyl groups. The hexyl group is n-hexane (straight chain, no branches) minus one hydrogen at one end: –CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH3. Now number the carbons, starting with the carbon with the free bond. Remove a hydrogen from the second carbon in the hexyl group and attach an ethyl group (–CH2CH3) to that carbon. You now have a 2-Ethylhexyl group: –CH2CH(CH2CH3)CH2CH2CH2CH3. The phthalate group is more complicated but, as seen below, you can see that it is based on a benzene ring. Note too, that the phthalate group has two free bonds.

To make BEHP, attach a 2-Ethylhexyl group to each of the free bonds of the phthalate group. The compound now has two identical 2-Ethylhexyl groups but how do we indicate in the name that there are two of them? We could use another ‘2’ but that could be confusing so we use another way of saying two: Bis, meaning there are two (2-Ethylhexyl) groups attached to the phthalate group. If you really want to get into this, the phthalate group could be thought of as a combination of smaller groups but enough is enough, the point is made.

Organic Acids

An acid can be thought of as a proton donor (H+).  An acid can ‘donate’ a proton by releasing a hydrogen ion (H+); the hydrogen ion is a proton (the rest of the acid is now an anion).  But most compounds are not acids (and there is more than one kind of acid, such as Lewis acids, some of which don’t even have hydrogen).  However, there is a combination that greatly facilitates the release of a hydrogen ion.  Consider the acids shown below, several inorganic acids and one organic acid.  They all have something in common.  

What they have in common is an atom of sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorus, or carbon to which is attached a double-bonded oxygen and a hydroxide.  That combination allows the hydrogen in the hydroxide to easily separate as a hydrogen ion; the compound is an acid.  Note that while the nitric acid has only one hydroxide, the sulfuric and carbonic acids have two and the phosphoric acid has three which means the sulfuric and carbonic acids can release two hydrogen ions and the phosphoric acid three.  As an aside, note the high oxidation numbers of the central atom: S (+6), N (+5), P (+5), and C (+4).  

What makes the carbon compound acidic is the carbon atom with a doubly-bonded oxygen and a hydroxyl; it is a carboxyl group (which includes a smaller hydroxyl group; groups within groups).  The carboxyl group can be written as –COOH with the understanding that both oxygens are linked to the carbon, not to each other.  It can link to other groups (R–COOH), forming a diverse collection of carboxylic acids; some are illustrated below.  The R for carbonic acid is another hydroxyl (inorganic chemistry says ‘hydroxide’; organic chemistry calls it a ‘hydroxyl’ (group). 

The website contaminants list includes a number of organic acids, some not so simple. If one of the hydrogens of the methyl group of an acetic acid (aka vinegar in impure form) is replaced with a halogen (usually sodium or bromine), then the acid becomes a Haloacetic Acid.

Glyphosate, an aliphatic, has a phosphoric acid group at one end and a carboxylic acid group at the other end (doubly acid). They are linked together with a dimethyl amine group (–CH2NHCH2–). The amine is a secondary amine (–NH–) because it is linked to two carbons.

2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (aka 2,4-D) can be thought of as beginning with phenol (a benzene ring with an attached hydroxyl group; note that phenol, itself, is an organic acid). If the carbon where the hydroxyl group is attached is designated carbon 1 in the benzene ring, then attach two chlorides (dichloro) at carbons 2 and 4 to produce 2,4-Dichlorophenol. Remove the hydrogen of the hydroxyl to create a phenoxy group (actually, in this case, a 2,4-Dichlorophenoxy group). Now remove a hydrogen from the methyl of an acetic acid and join it to the phenoxy group. Note that there is an oxygen bridge in this compound which also makes it an ether.

A Triazine Ring Compound

You could replace three of the carbons in a benzene ring with nitrogens to create triazine. Because the nitrogens have only three bonds compared to the four of the carbon, triazine (C3N3H3) has three fewer hydrogens than benzene (C6H6). Triazine has three isomers, distinguished by where the nitrogens are in the ring, which can be designated 1,2,3-triazine, 1,2,4-triazine, and 1,3,5-triazine.

Atrazine, or 1-Chloro-3-ethylamino-5-isopropylamino-2,4, 6-triazine, is based on the 1,3,5-triazine isomer. Replace the hydrogen on one of the carbons with a chloride to produce 1-Chloro-2,4,6-triazine. Note that the ring positions have been renumbered; position 1 is now the carbon with the chloride but it is the same triazine isomer.

Now consider ethylamine, CH3CH2NH2. Turn this compound into an ethylamino functional group by removing a hydrogen from the amine to produce CH3CH2NH–. Do the same to isopropylamine, CH3(CH3)CHNH2, to convert it into the isopropylamino functional group, CH3(CH3)CHNH–. You should be able to see where this is going: attach the ethylamino group to the carbon at position 3 and the isopropyl group to the carbon at position 5 and you have atrazine.


By now you should have an appreciation of functional groups, that they make the visualization and understanding of what could be very complicated organic compounds simpler. You could view them as building blocks but these building blocks also impart certain properties to the fully assembled organic compound. Two examples are the carboxyl group which gives the final compound an acidic property and the hydroxyl group which converts a hydrocarbon into an alcohol. Ethane (CH3CH3), with a hydroxyl substitution, becomes ethanol or ethyl alcohol (CH3CH2OH). Benzene (C6H6), with a hydroxyl substitution, becomes phenol. Note the –ol ending in the name which indicates that the compound is an alcohol.

Phenol is especially interesting because it is both an alcohol and an acid. The resonating benzene ring to which the hydroxyl is attached allows for the separation of a hydrogen ion (proton) from the hydroxyl, making it an acid. Do not, however, make the mistake of thinking that every hydroxyl in a compound is a source of hydrogen ions. Ethanol is not an acid. You need something like an adjacent doubly-bonded oxygen or a benzene ring to ‘loosen’ that potential hydrogen ion.

You may have also noticed that you can work with various sizes and complexity of building blocks, that you can assemble smaller functional groups into larger functional groups. One example is the ethylamino group (CH3CH2NH–) mentioned above. You could break it down into two smaller groups, an ethyl group (CH3CH2–) and a secondary amino group (–NH–). Or, you could start with a more complicated group like the phthalate group in Bis (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate.

One caution: thinking of functional groups as building blocks is a useful technique in understanding the structure of an organic compound but it is not necessarily how a particular compound is actually made. Life would be much simpler if we could just pull this off here and add that there but in real life it is often necessary to go through a series of intermediate steps to accomplish what might seem to be a simple joining together of building blocks. It is often the case that conditions have to be just right to cause this to happen rather than that; the synthesis of an organic compound can be a very tedious, and sometimes inefficient, process.

Sometimes the problem is to stop or at least minimize a particular organic compound from forming such as in the unwanted formation of trihalomethanes in the disinfection of water. As is often the case, there are trade-offs. If you didn’t chlorinate the drinking water, trihalomethanes shouldn’t be a problem but chlorination is done for a reason. The consequences of microbial contamination of drinking water are usually greater than the consequences of the formation of unwanted disinfection by-products. If you can remove those unwanted organics at point-of-use, all the better.

There are many, many other organic compounds not mentioned here which could become a recognized concern in the future. One recent example is 6PPD-quinone which is formed when 6PPD (N-(1,3-dimethylbutyl)-N'-phenyl-1,4-benzenediamine) in rubber tires reacts with ozone. 6PPD is one of many chemical additives to tire rubber to improve the quality of the rubber; ozone exposure will cause the rubber to deteriorate. If the rubber has 6PPD, the ozone will be used up oxidizing the 6PPD rather than the rubber. Unfortunately, 6PPD-quinone appears to be very toxic to salmon.

Tires gradually wear from use on roads with the result that tiny particles of rubber are deposited on the roads. A rainstorm will wash those particles into nearby streams and 6PPD-quinone will leach from the particles and enter the stream ecosystem where it has been documented killing coho salmon in the U.S. Pacific Northwest (Why were salmon dying? The answer washed off the road, Erik Stokstad, Science, Vol. 370, Issue 6521, p. 1145, 4 Dec., 2020).

Presumably, 6PPD-quinone is toxic to other fish and it raises the question of what other organisms might find it toxic. Nor would this problem be restricted to the Pacific Northwest especially since cars and highways are everywhere. There is no standard for this compound and, at this time, no health advisories. What other organic compounds are in common products, especially plastics, which will prove to be an ecosystem problem in the future?

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