Publications : 2013

Willhite CC, Ball GL, Bhat VS. 2013. Emergency do not consume/do not use concentrations for blended phosphates in drinking water. Human Exper Toxicol 32:241-259.


The U.S. Congress [PL 107-188] amended the Safe Drinking Water Act and required each community water system serving more than 3,000 people to conduct vulnerability assessments. These assessments address potential circumstances that could compromise the safety and reliability of municipal water. The present evaluation concerns the concentrations of the blended phosphates (also known as polyphosphates, condensed complex phosphates, polyphosphate glassy balls, and pyrophosphates) intended to aid regulatory agencies in decisions to avoid contact with affected water. Polyphosphates are direct food additives and they are used to treat municipal drinking water, but depending upon the concentration and duration of exposure these substances can induce chemical burns. Ingested polyphosphates are degraded by phosphatase enzymes to monophosphates, substances that are over-the-counter bowel purgatives. High oral doses of the monophosphates can induce transient hyperphosphatemia in older and susceptible young people, which can lead to acute phosphate nephropathy. In some patients, the condition is fatal. Based on the acute diarrhea after the ingestion of a single oral dose of monobasic (NaH2PO(4)) and dibasic (Na2HPO(4)) monophosphates in adults, a do not consume concentration of 600 mg PO(4)/L can be derived. Based on mild local irritation after topical application of 1.0% sodium metaphosphate [(NaPO(3))6 • H2O] to intact skin of sensitive volunteers, a do not use concentration of 8,000 mg PO4/L can be assigned. Given the lack of eye irritation in rabbits after direct instillation of 0.2% (NaPO(3))6 • H2O, an acute ocular contact limit of 50 mg PO4/L serves as the overall do not use level.