Impacts on Drinking Water

From all the aforementioned, it is obvious that detergents find their way into drinking water supplies in various ways. As far as imparting odor to drinking water, only heavy doses of anionic surfactants yield an unpleasant odor [36], and someone has to have a very sensitive nose to smell detergent doses of 50 mg/L or less. On the other hand, it seems that the impact of detergent doses on the sense of taste of various individuals varies considerably. As reported by Cohen [10], the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a series of taste tests which showed that although 50% of the people in the test group detected a concentration of 60 mg/L of ABS in drinking water, only 5% of them detected a concentration of 16 mg/L. Because tests like this have been conducted using commercial detergent formulations, most probably the observed taste is not due to the surfactants but rather to the additives or perfumes added to the products. However, the actual limit for detergents in drinking water in the United States is a concentration of only 0.5 mg/L, less than even the most sensitive palates can discern.

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