Drinking Water Standards for Contaminants: Volatile and Synthetic Organic Chemicals Fact Sheet - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act Standards:
Volatile and Synthetic Organic Chemicals

Safe Drinking Water Act

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This is a list of the organic chemicals—which include pesticides, industrial chemicals, and disinfection by-products—that are tested for in public water systems (those that provide water to the public), along with the maximum standard for the contaminant, and a brief description of the potential health effects associated with long-term consumption of elevated levels of the contaminants.

The federal standard for most contaminants is listed as a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), the lowest concentration at which that particular contaminant is believed to represent a potential health concern. Unless otherwise noted, the MCL is expressed as parts per billion (ppb). Also, because of technological limitations or other factors, it is not possible to test for some contaminants in a reliable fashion. Instead, public water systems are required to use specific Treatment Techniques (TT) that are designed to remove these particular contaminants from the water.

In addition to the chemicals listed, monitoring is done for approximately 60 organic chemicals for which MCLs have not been established. If unacceptable levels are found of these “unregulated” contaminants—based on established state health standards and an assessment of the risks they pose—the response is the same as if an MCL has been exceeded: the public water system must notify those served by the system.

Organic chemicals that are regulated in drinking water are a group of human-made chemical compounds and are components of a variety of pesticides and industrial and commercial products, including degreasers, paints, and petroleum distillates.

(Note: This fact sheet covers only organic chemicals. For a list of other contaminants that are monitored, refer to the Minnesota Department of Health fact sheet, Drinking Water Standards for Contaminants: Microbiological, Radiological, and Inorganic Contaminants)

MCL - Maximum Contaminant Level
ppb - parts per billion
TT - Treatment Technique

Volatile Organic Chemicals

Volatile Organic Chemicals
MCL (ppb)
Potential Health Effects
Benzene 5 Cancer
Carbon tetrachloride 5 Liver effects, cancer
Chlorobenzene 100 Liver, kidney, nervous system effects
o-Dichlorobenzene 600 Liver, kidney, blood cell effects
para-Dichlorobenzene 175 Kidney effects, possible carcinogen
1,2-Dichloroethane 5 Cancer
1,1-Dichloroethylene 7 Liver, kidney effects, possible carcinogen
cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene 70 Liver, kidney, nervous system, circulatory system effects
trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene 100 Liver, kidney, nervous system, circulatory system effects
1,2-Dichloropropane 5 Cancer
Ethylbenzene 700 Liver, kidney, nervous system effects
Methylene chloride 5 Cancer
Styrene 100 Liver, nervous systems effects, possible carcinogen
Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) 5 Cancer
Toluene 1,000 Liver, kidney, nervous system, circulatory system effects
Total trihalomethanes
100 Cancer
1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene 70 Liver, kidney effects
1,1,1-Trichloroethane 200 Liver, nervous system effects
1,1,2-Trichloroethane 5 Kidney, liver effects, possible carcinogen
Trichloroethylene (TCE) 5 Cancer
Vinyl chloride 2 Nervous system, liver effects, cancer
Xylenes (total) 10,000 Liver, kidney, nervous system effects

Disinfection By-products

Disinfection By-products
MCL (ppb)
Potential Health Effects
Bromate 10 Cancer
Chlorite 1,000 Anemia, nervous system effects
Haloacetic Acids (HAA5)* 60 Cancer
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)** 100 Cancer

*Haloacetic acids consist of monochloroacetic acid, dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, monobromoacetic acid, and dibromoacetic acid.

**Total trihalomethanes consist of chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and chlorodibromomethane.

Synthetic Organic Chemicals

Synthetic Organic Chemicals
MCL (ppb)
Potential Health Effects
Acrylamide TT Cancer, nervous system effects
Alachlor 2 Cancer
Aldicarb 3 Nervous system effects
Aldicarb sulfoxide 4 Nervous system effects
Aldicarb sulfone 2 Nervous system effects
Atrazine 3 Liver, kidney, lung, cardiovascular effects; possible carcinogen
Benzo(a)pyrene (PAHs) 0.2 Liver, kidney effects, possible carcinogen
Carbofuran 40 Nervous system, reproductive system effects
Chlordane 2 Cancer
2,4-D 70 Liver, kidney effects
Di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate 400 Reproductive effects
Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate 6 Cancer
Dibromochloro-propane (DBCP) 0.2 Cancer
Dinoseb 7 Thyroid, reproductive effects
Diquat 20 Ocular, liver, kidney effects
100 Liver, kidney, gastrointestinal effects
Endrin 2 Liver, kidney effects
Epichlorohydrin TT Cancer
Ethylene dibromide (EDB) 0.05 Cancer
Glyphosate 700 Liver, kidney effects
Heptachlor 0.4 Cancer
Heptachlor epoxide 0.2 Cancer
Hexachlorobenzene 1 Cancer
Hexachlorocyclopentadiene (HEX) 50 Kidney, stomach effects
Lindane 0.2 Liver, kidney, nervous system, immune system, circulatory system effects
40 Developmental, liver, kidney, nervous system effects
Oxamyl (Vydate) 200 Kidney effects
Pentachlorophenol 1 Cancer
Picloram 500 Kidney, liver effects
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) 0.5 Cancer
Simazine 4 Body weight and blood effects, possible carcinogen
2,3,7,8-TCDD (Dioxin) 0.00003 Cancer
Toxaphene 3 Cancer
2,4,5-TP (Silvex) 50 Liver, kidney effects

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Updated Monday, January 15, 2018 at 09:52AM