What are the health implications of Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene presence in tap water?

Consider three cases:

  • Direct consumption (drinking the water)
  • Indirect consumption (cooking with the water)
  • Exposure (bathing/showering)
  • Since many bottled waters are nothing but tap water in a bottle, don't assume that bottled waters are one bit safer or more pure than tap water. In fact, the opposite is often true.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 22:32

1 Answer 1


Less bad than benzene itself.

The reason for this is that the alkyl groups on toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene can all be metabolized to carboxylic acids by the liver rather than oxidizing the ring directly, which creates a phenol. Metabolism of benzene to phenol increases its toxicity (to the liver).

Of the cases listed I would expect cooking with the water to cause the least exposure to the dissolved hydrocarbons. The reason for this is that they are volatile with steam, so that boiling the water would cause the listed hydrocarbons to be quickly removed in the steam. By the same token, bathing with the water may cause significant exposure to the hydrocarbon as it evaporates into the air in the shower.

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