Household Polyphosphate Additives as a Source of Phosphate Intake, Slovenia

Jereb G, Poljšak B, Eržen I. Contribution of Drinking Water Softeners to Daily Phosphate Intake in Slovenia. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2017 Oct 6;14(10). pii: E1186. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14101186.

The cumulative phosphate intake in a typical daily diet is high and, according to several studies, already exceeds recommended values. The exposure of the general population to phosphorus via drinking water is generally not known. One of the hidden sources of phosphorus in a daily diet is sodium polyphosphate, commonly used as a drinking water softener. In Slovenia, softening of drinking water is carried out exclusively within the internal (household) drinking water supply systems to prevent the accumulation of limescale. The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of sodium phosphates in the drinking water in Slovenia in different types of buildings, to determine residents’ awareness of the presence of chemical softeners in their drinking water, and to provide an exposure assessment on the phosphorus intake from drinking water. In the current study, the presence of phosphates in the samples of drinking water was determined using a spectrophotometric method with ammonium molybdate. In nearly half of the samples, the presence of phosphates as water softeners was confirmed. The measured concentrations varied substantially from 0.2 mg PO4/L to 24.6 mg PO4/L. Nearly 70% of the respondents were not familiar with the exact data on water softening in their buildings. It follows that concentrations of added phosphates should be controlled and the consumers should be informed of the added chemicals in their drinking water. The health risks of using sodium polyphosphate as a drinking water softener have not been sufficiently investigated and assessed. It is highly recommended that proper guidelines and regulations are developed and introduced to protect human health from adverse effects of chemicals in water intended for human consumption.

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