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General criteria 

Chemicals of health significance in drinking-water
A. Inorganic constituents
Extracted from: 
Guidelines for drinking-water quality, 2nd ed. 
Vol. 2 Health criteria and other supporting information, 1996 (pp. 940-949) and Addendum to Vol. 2 . 1998 (pp. 281-283)
Geneva, World Health Organization.
  Guideline value (mg/litre) Remarks
antimony 0.005 (P)a  
arsenic 0.01b (P) For excess skin cancer risk of 6 × 10-4
barium 0.7  
beryllium   NADc
boron 0.5 (P)  
cadmium 0.003  
chromium 0.05 (P)  
copper 2 (P) Based on acute gastrointestinal effects
cyanide 0.07  
fluoride 1.5 Climatic conditions, volume of water consumed, and intake from other sources should be considered when setting national standards
lead 0.01 It is recognized that not all water will meet the guideline value immediately; meanwhile, all other recommended measures to reduce the total exposure to lead should be implemented
manganese 0.5 (P) ATOd
mercury (total) 0.001  
molybdenum 0.07  
nickel 0.02 (P)  
nitrate (as NO3-) 50 (acute)
nitrite (as NO2-) 3 (acute) 

0.2 (P) (chronic)

selenium 0.01  
uranium 0.002 (P)  
a (P) — Provisional guideline value. This term is used for constituents for which there is some evidence of a potential hazard but where the available information on health effects is limited; or where an uncertainty factor greater than 1000 has been used in the derivation of the tolerable daily intake (TDI). Provisional guideline values are also recommended: (1) for substances for which the calculated guideline value would be below the practical quantification level, or below the level that can be achieved through practical treatment methods; or (2) where disinfection is likely to result in the guideline value being exceeded.

b For substances that are considered to be carcinogenic, the guideline value is the concentration in drinking-water associated with an excess lifetime cancer risk of 10-5 (one additional cancer per 100 000 of the population ingesting drinking-water containing the substance at the guideline value for 70 years). Concentrations associated with estimated excess lifetime cancer risks of 10-4 and 10-6 can be calculated by multiplying and dividing, respectively, the guideline value by 10.

In cases in which the concentration associated with an excess lifetime cancer risk of 10-5 is not feasible as a result of inadequate analytical or treatment technology, a provisional guideline value is recommended at a practicable level and the estimated associated excess lifetime cancer risk presented.

It should be emphasized that the guideline values for carcinogenic substances have been computed from hypothetical mathematical models that cannot be verified experimentally and that the values should be interpreted differently from TDI-based values because of the lack of precision of the models. At best, these values must be regarded as rough estimates of cancer risk. However, the models used are conservative and probably err on the side of caution. Moderate short-term exposure to levels exceeding the guideline value for carcinogens does not significantly affect the risk.

c NAD — No adequate data to permit recommendation of a health-based guideline value.

d ATO — Concentrations of the substance at or below the health-based guideline value may affect the appearance, taste, or odour of the water.

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