Home » Toxic chemical “Nonylphenol” found in drinking water can pose health hazards

Toxic chemical “Nonylphenol” found in drinking water can pose health hazards

by IP Staff

NEW DELHI: A new study by Toxics Link, released today, titled ‘Toxic Chemical “No ylphenol”: A Barrier to Safe Drinking Water’ has raised concerns over high levels i.e., 29.1 to 80.5 ppb (parts per billion) of ‘Nonylphenol’, a toxic chemical detected in drinking water samples across
India. In this study, twelve drinking water samples were collected from different
parts of the country and sent to the Shriram Institute of Industrial Research,
New Delhi for testing. The highest concentration was observed in a borewell
water sample from Bathinda (80.5 ppb). “Nonylphenol is a toxic chemical and a
well-known endocrine disruptor associated with a number of adverse effects on
human health. Daily intake of Nonylphenol through drinking water can have
adverse health impacts on citizens”, said Piyush Mohapatra, Senior
Programme Coordinator, Toxics Link. Several research studies have
confirmed that Nonylphenol can disrupt the endocrine system of human beings
and also impact aquatic life and wildlife. The United Nations Environment
Programme has also designated Nonylphenol as a chemical of global concern.
Nonylphenol is commonly used in the production of Nonylphenol Ethoxylates
(NPEs). NPEs are used as surfactants as well as in day-to-day consumer
products such as detergents, wetting agents and dispersants, etc. NPEs enter the
environment and ultimately break down to Nonylphenols that can enter different
environmental matrices such as water, soil, etc. The chemical can also possibly
be released during industrial cleaning processes and from wastewater produced
during production of NPEs. The 2019 study by Toxics Link confirmed the
presence of Nonylphenol in detergents sold in the Indian market with the
highest concentration found to be 11.92% wt. Moreover, it was also detected in
notably high quantity in all the river and lake samples tested in that particular

In India, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has set standards for phenolic
compounds in drinking water (1 ppb) and surface water (5 parts per million
(ppm)). However, at present, there are no standards exclusively for
nonylphenols in drinking and surface waters in India. Moreover, no regulations
are in place in India to restrict or phase out the use of NPEs in detergents and
other consumer products in order to prevent the release of Nonylphenol into the
environment, especially water bodies.
“Countries like the USA, European Union, Japan, and China have already
acknowledged the dangers of this chemical and have come up with regulations
to phase out the use of this chemical in many of the products including
detergents for minimizing the risks at the downstream level”, said Dr. Omkar
Gaonkar, Programme Coordinator, and Toxics Link. He further stated that
“These countries have also established water quality criteria and standards for

In the present report, fifteen water samples were collected from different parts
of India as follows:

Twelve tap water samples from Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh)
Indraprastha (New Delhi); Balbeer Vihar (Northwest Delhi); Annur
Block and Project Phase 1 of Coimbatore Municipal
Corporation(Tamil Nadu); Bapi village in Dausa rural (Rajasthan);
Dausa City, (Rajasthan); Navi Mumbai (Maharashtra); Gurugram
(Haryana); Bathinda (Punjab); KIIT University and Damana slum in
Bhubaneshwar (Odisha)
Three drinking water samples from Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh);
Sancole, (South Goa); and Bhatinda (Punjab)
The water samples were collected and sent to Shriram Institute of Industrial
Research, New Delhi for analysis of nonylphenols

“Presence of Nonylphenol, a toxic chemical, in drinking water is of serious
concern to human health and will require thorough investigation and creation of
suitable standards for nonylphenol in drinking water. This measure will go a
long way in ensuring water quality and availability of safe drinking water to
citizens,” said Mr. Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link.
Key findings of the study:

⮚ Nonylphenol was found in all the samples with concentrations ranging
from 29.1 to 80.5 ppb
⮚ Highest concentration was observed in the tap water from a borewell in
Bathinda (80.5 ppb), while the lowest concentration was found in the tap
water from government supply water in Indraprastha, New Delhi (29.1
⮚ Nonylphenol concentrations in the drinking water samples ranged from
58.8–61.5 ppb. Out of three drinking water samples, two samples were
filtered (61.5 ppb in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh and 58.8 ppb in Sancole,
South Goa) and one sample was RO-treated (61.1 ppb in Bhatinda,
⮚ Nonylphenol concentrations in water samples were 29 to 81 times higher
than the prescribed BIS limit for phenolic compounds in drinking water
(1 ppb). These values are even higher compared to the US EPA safety
standard for freshwater quality criteria

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