Emerging Drinking Water Disinfection Byproducts: Analytical and Toxicological Characterization

Invited speaker: Xing-Fang Li

Drinking water disinfection is the most effective means for preventing waterborne diseases. However, an unintended consequence is the formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs) from reactions between the disinfectants (e.g., chlorine) and the natural organic matter in water. Epidemiological studies have shown a potential association of consumption of chlorinated drinking water with increased risk of bladder cancer. Analytical limitations prevented the earlier studies from comprehensively measuring or identifying the actual DBPs in drinking water. Thus, the exact DBPs contributing to the increased bladder cancer risk are unclear. To date, we know approximately 700 DBPs; however, the majority of DBPs remain unidentified. We have focused on the development of ultra-sensitive analytical techniques to discover new DBPs of health importance. This presentation will highlight analytical and toxicological studies of emerging DBPs such as haloquinones and nontargeted analysis of all DBPs in disinfected drinking water and their precursors in source water.

Dr. Xing-Fang Li is Professor and Canada Research Chair (tier 1) at the University of Alberta with cross appointment in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and in the School of Public Health. She is the Past Chair of the Environment Division, Canadian Society for Chemistry. Her diverse research deals with analytical and environmental chemistry, focusing on analytical technology development and applications to drinking water disinfection, environmental contaminants, microbial pathogens, and molecular interactions between environmental contaminants and biomolecules.  

Dr. Li is elected Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada (FCIC). She has received a University Faculty Award (2002) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, a McBryde Medal (2010) and Ricardo Aroca Award (2020) from the Canadian Society for Chemistry, and an Environment Division Research & Development Dima Award (2017) from the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC). The Ricardo Aroca Award recognizes her “distinguished contribution to the field of analytical chemistry” and the CIC Environment Division Research & Development Award is presented for “distinguished contributions to research and/or development in the fields of environmental chemistry or environmental chemical engineering”. She was previously also awarded the Annual Killam Professorship (2012/2013) and Excellence in Mentoring Award (2014) by the University of Alberta. 

Dr. Li received B.Sc. (1983) in Chemistry from Hangzhou (Zhejiang) University, M.Sc. (1986) in Environmental Chemistry from the Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, M.Sc. (1990) in Analytical Chemistry from Brock University (Canada), and Ph.D. (1995) in Environmental/Analytical Chemistry from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Li is a guest professor at Zhejiang University, Wuhan University, and the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing). 

Current projects in Dr. Li’s research group include: (i) characterizing new drinking water disinfection byproducts of toxicological significance, (ii) studying toxicity of emerging water contaminants, (iii) generating DNA aptamers that bind to specific microbial pathogens, and (iv) developing nano-biosensing devices and assays for detection of microbial infections and environmental contaminants.

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