Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Identification of drinking water contaminants in the course of a childhood cancer investigation in Toms River, New Jersey


Using a combination of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and gas chromatography/infrared spectroscopy (GC/IR) spectroscopic techniques, chemical contaminants and their hydrolysis products were identified in well water sampled in connection with a suspected childhood cancer cluster located in Dover Township, Ocean County, New Jersey. The drinking water contamination resulted from the leaching of industrial waste chemicals from drums that were disposed of at the site known as Reich Farm. Contaminants identified include dinitrile-tetralin compounds, known as `trimers,' that are by-products of a polymerization process widely used by several polymer manufacturers during the 1970s and 1980s (and still used today). Also identified were `trimer' hydrolysis products, formed by the hydrolysis of their nitrile groups to amides. These industrial contaminants were not present in any of the mass or IR spectral library databases, and their identification required unconventional spectroscopic methods (including high resolution mass spectrometry, chemical ionization mass spectrometry, and IR spectroscopy), along with scientific reasoning and interpretation. It is currently not known whether these chemical contaminants are responsible for the childhood cancers observed in this area.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to SUSAN D RICHARDSON.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

RICHARDSON, S., COLLETTE, T., PRICE, P. et al. Identification of drinking water contaminants in the course of a childhood cancer investigation in Toms River, New Jersey. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 9, 200–216 (1999).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • chemical identification
  • childhood cancer
  • drinking water
  • industrial pollutants
  • Toms River, New Jersey.

This article is cited by


Quick links