Synthesis and application of a quaternary phosphonium polymer coagulant to avoid N-nitrosamine formation

Teng Zeng, Joseph J. Pignatello, Russell Jingxian Li, William A. Mitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Quaternary ammonium cationic polymers, such as poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (polyDADMAC) are widely used for coagulating and removing negatively charged particles and dissolved organic matter (DOM) from drinking water. Their use, however, has been linked to the formation of carcinogenic N-nitrosamines as byproducts during chloramine-based drinking water disinfection. In this study, a novel quaternary phosphonium cationic polymer, poly(diallyldiethylphosphonium chloride) (polyDADEPC), was synthesized such that the quaternary nitrogen atom of polyDADMAC was substituted with a phosphorus atom. Formation potential tests revealed that even under strong nitrosation conditions, polyDADEPC and related lower-order P-based compounds formed oxygenated and not nitrosated products. Bench-scale jar tests using three different source waters further demonstrated that polyDADEPC achieved coagulation performance comparable to commercial polyDADMACs for particle and DOM removals within the typical dose range used for drinking water treatment. This work highlights the potential use of a phosphonium coagulant polymer, polyDADEPC, as a viable alternative to polyDADMAC to avoid nitrosated byproduct formation during chloramination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13392-13401
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 18 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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