Publications : 2013

Willhite C, Ball GL, Bhat VS. 2013. Emergency do not consume/do not use concentrations for ferric chloride in drinking water. Human Exper Toxicol 32:260-274.


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. Ferric chloride is used in coagulation and flocculation, and it is used to treat raw water with high viral loads, elevated dissolved solids or high bromide. Iron is an essential nutrient, but elevated concentrations of FeCl3 are corrosive as a result of hydrolysis to HCl. Based on a no-observed-adverse effect level (NOAEL) of 0.5% FeCl3 • 6H2O administered in drinking water to male and female F344 rats for up to 2 years, a do not consume concentration of 200 mg FeCl3 /L can be derived. Since instillation of 0.3 M (48.7 g/L) FeCl3 in saline to rodent vagina failed to elicit damage, a topical do not use concentration of 2000 mg FeCl3/L (600 mg Fe/L) can be assigned. The only FeCl3 data available to quantify ocular toxicity involved a pH 1 solution in rabbit eyes, but HCl instillation (pH 2.5) to rabbit eyes found permanent corneal ulceration after 10 min. The pH of FeCl3 in water at the do not use limit (2.4-2.6) is near the pH (2.0) considered corrosive by regulatory agencies. As direct eye contact with water at pH 4.5 or below increases complaints of ocular discomfort, emergency response plans that address FeCl3 in drinking water must account for Fe levels and the pH of the affected water.