Category Archives: Organic Contaminants

Occurrence of Illicit Drugs in Water and Wastewater

Meena K.Yadav, Michael D. Short, Rupak Aryal, Cobus Gerber, Benvan den Akker, Christopher P. Saint. Occurrence of illicit drugs in water and wastewater and their removal during wastewater treatment. Water Research Vol. 124, Nov. 2017, p713-727. 

This review critically evaluates the types and concentrations of key illicit drugs (cocaine, amphetamines, cannabinoids, opioids and their metabolites) found in wastewater, surface water and drinking water sources worldwide and what is known on the effectiveness of wastewater treatment in removing such compounds. It is also important to amass information on the trends in specific drug use as well as the sources of such compounds that enter the environment and we review current international knowledge on this. There are regional differences in the types and quantities of illicit drug consumption and this is reflected in the quantities detected in water. Generally, the levels of illicit drugs in wastewater effluents are lower than in raw influent, indicating that the majority of compounds can be at least partially removed by conventional treatment processes such as activated sludge or trickling filters. However, the literature also indicates that it is too simplistic to assume non-detection equates to drug removal and/or mitigation of associated risks, as there is evidence that some compounds may avoid detection via inadequate sampling and/or analysis protocols, or through conversion to transformation products. Partitioning of drugs from the water to the solids fraction (sludge/biosolids) may also simply shift the potential risk burden to a different environmental compartment and the review found no information on drug stability and persistence in biosolids. Generally speaking, activated sludge-type processes appear to offer better removal efficacy across a range of substances, but the lack of detail in many studies makes it difficult to comment on the most effective process configurations and operations. There is also a paucity of information on the removal effectiveness of alternative treatment processes. Research is also required on natural removal processes in both water and sediments that may over time facilitate further removal of these compounds in receiving environments.

Development of Drinking Water Guidelines for Perfluoroalkly acids

Post GB, Gleason JA, Cooper KR. Key scientific issues in developing drinking water guidelines for perfluoroalkyl acids: Contaminants of emerging concern. PLoS Biol. 2017 Dec 20;15(12):e2002855. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2002855.

Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), a group of synthetic organic chemicals with industrial and commercial uses, are of current concern because of increasing awareness of their presence in drinking water and their potential to cause adverse health effects. PFAAs are distinctive among persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) contaminants because they are water soluble and do not break down in the environment. This commentary discusses scientific and risk assessment issues that impact the development of drinking water guidelines for PFAAs, including choice of toxicological endpoints, uncertainty factors, and exposure assumptions used as their basis. In experimental animals, PFAAs cause toxicity to the liver, the immune, endocrine, and male reproductive systems, and the developing fetus and neonate. Low-dose effects include persistent delays in mammary gland development (perfluorooctanoic acid; PFOA) and suppression of immune response (perfluorooctane sulfonate; PFOS). In humans, even general population level exposures to some PFAAs are associated with health effects such as increased serum lipids and liver enzymes, decreased vaccine response, and decreased birth weight. Ongoing exposures to even relatively low drinking water concentrations of long-chain PFAAs substantially increase human body burdens, which remain elevated for many years after exposure ends. Notably, infants are a sensitive subpopulation for PFAA’s developmental effects and receive higher exposures than adults from the same drinking water source. This information, as well as emerging data from future studies, should be considered in the development of health-protective and scientifically sound guidelines for PFAAs in drinking water.

Persistent Organic Pollutants in the River Niger

Unyimadu JP, Osibanjo O, Babayemi JO. Selected persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in water of River Niger: occurrence and distribution. Environ Monit Assess. 2017 Dec 6;190(1):6. doi: 10.1007/s10661-017-6378-4.

This study assessed the levels and distribution of selected persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in water of River Niger. The selected POPs of interest were organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). Fifteen representative sites along River Niger: three each from Gurara River (tributary) in Niger State, Lokoja (confluence) in Kogi State, Onitsha in Anambra State, Brass and Nicolas Rivers (tributaries) in Bayelsa State were selected for sampling quarterly over a 24-month period. A total of 240 surface and bottom water samples were collected using Van Dorn water sampler in the eight quarters of 2008-2009. At the Delta locations where tidal effects take place, high- and low-tide water samples were taken as compared to surface and bottom at the River Niger locations. For sample extraction, EPA method 3510c was employed with slight modifications. Certified reference standards from Accustandards USA was used for the instrument calibration and quantification of OCPs. The extracted samples were subjected to gas chromatography (GC/ECD) for identification/quantification. And Shimadzu GCMS QP2010 was used for confirmation. Chlordane, endosulfan, endrin and DDT metabolites were very prominent in the water samples, compared to HCH, dieldrin, and isomers which occurred at lower concentrations. The sequence in the concentration of the organochlorine pesticides were ∑chlordane > ∑DDT > ∑endosulfan > ∑endrine > ∑dieldrin > ∑HCH. The highest concentration of ∑OCPs in water samples of River Niger, 1138.0 ± 246.7 ng/L, with range 560.8-1629 ng/L was detected at Onitsha location, while the lowest concentration, 292.6 ± 74.9, with range 181-443.0 ng/L was detected at Nicolas River. Levels of OCPs in a larger percentage of the samples exceeded guidelines and therefore hold potential harmful effects on benthic fauna, fish, and man. Abstraction of water from the River for drinking water treatment should be discouraged. Because of the potential danger, this presents, continuous monitoring of the water body and if possible remediation, determination of the sources of the POPs is therefore very necessary.

Antibiotics in water and lettuce, Ghana

Azanu D, Styrishave B, Darko G, Weisser JJ, Abaidoo RC. Occurrence and risk assessment of antibiotics in water and lettuce in Ghana. Sci Total Environ. 2017 Dec 4;622-623:293-305. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.287.

Hospital wastewater and effluents from waste stabilization ponds in Kumasi, Ghana, are directly discharged as low quality water into nearby streams which are eventually used to irrigate vegetables. The presence of 12 commonly used antibiotics in Ghana (metronidazole, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, trimethoprim, ampicillin, cefuroxime, sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin, tetracycline, oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline and doxycycline) were investigated in water and lettuce samples collected in three different areas in Kumasi, Ghana. The water samples were from hospital wastewater, wastewater stabilization ponds, rivers and irrigation water, while the lettuce samples were from vegetable farms and market vendors. Antibiotics in water samples were extracted using SPE while antibiotics in lettuce samples were extracted using accelerated solvent extraction followed by SPE. All extracted antibiotics samples were analyzed by HPLC-MS/MS. All studied compounds were detected in concentrations significantly higher (p=0.01) in hospital wastewater than in the other water sources. The highest concentration found in the present study was 15μg/L for ciprofloxacin in hospital wastewater. Irrigation water samples analyzed had concentrations of antibiotics up to 0.2μg/L. Wastewater stabilization ponds are low technology but effective means of removing antibiotics with removal efficiency up to 95% recorded in this study. However, some chemicals are still found in levels indicating medium to high risk of antibiotics resistance development in the environment. The total concentrations of antibiotics detected in edible lettuce tissues from vegetable farms and vegetable sellers at the markets were in the range of 12.0-104 and 11.0-41.4ng/kg (fresh weight) respectively. The antibiotics found with high concentrations in all the samples were sulfamethoxazole, erythromycin, ciprofloxacin, cefuroxime and trimethoprim. Furthermore, our study confirms the presence of seven antibiotics in lettuce from irrigation farms and markets, suggesting an indirect exposure of humans to antibiotics through vegetable consumption and drinking water in Ghana. However, estimated daily intake for a standard 60kg woman was 0.3ng/day, indicating low risk for human health.

Organic micropollutants in wastewater treatment plants, China

Ben W, Zhu B, Yuan X, Zhang Y, Yang M, Qiang Z. Occurrence, removal and risk of organic micropollutants in wastewater treatment plants across China: Comparison of wastewater treatment processes. Water research. 2017 Nov 30;130:38-46. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2017.11.057.

This study investigated the occurrence, removal and risk of 42 organic micropollutants (MPs), including 30 pharmaceuticals and personal care products and 12 endocrine disrupting chemicals, in 14 municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) distributed across China. The composition profiles of different MP categories in the influent, effluent, and excess sludge were explored and the aqueous removal efficiencies of MPs were determined. Quantitative meta-analysis was performed to compare the efficacies of different wastewater treatment processes in eliminating MPs. Results indicate that different MP categories showed quite similar distributions among the studied WWTPs, with phenolic estrogenic compounds (PEs), macrolides, and fluoroquinolones being always dominant in the influent, effluent and excess sludge. Tetracyclines, bezafibrate, caffeine, steroid estrogens, and PEs showed high and stable aqueous removal efficiencies, whereas other MPs showed considerably varied aqueous removal efficiencies. Anaerobic/anoxic/oxic process combined with a moving-bed biofilm reactor achieved the highest aqueous removal of MPs among various secondary treatment processes. A combined process consisting of ultrafiltration, ozonation and ClO2 disinfection resulted in the highest removal of MPs among the tertiary treatment processes. Sulfamethoxazole, ofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, clarithromycin, erythromycin, estrone, and bisphenol A in the effluent, as well as β-estradiol 3-sulfate in the excess sludge could pose high risks. This study draws an overall picture about the current status of MPs in WWTPs across China and provides useful information for better control of the risks associated with MPs.

Organic Pollutants in Drinking Water, Eastern China

Shi P, Zhou S, Xiao H, Qiu J, Li A, Zhou Q, Pan Y, Hollert H. Toxicological and chemical insights into representative source and drinking water in eastern China. Environmental pollution 2017 Oct 17;233:35-44. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.10.033.

Drinking water safety is continuously threatened by the emergence of numerous toxic organic pollutants (TOPs) in environmental waters. In this study, an approach integrating in vitro bioassays and chemical analyses was performed to explore toxicological profiles of representative source and drinking water from waterworks of the Yangtze River (Yz), Taihu Lake (Th), and the Huaihe River (Hh) basins in eastern China. Overall, 34 of 96 TOPs were detected in all water samples, with higher concentrations in both source and drinking water samples of Hh, and pollutant profiles also differed across different river basins. Non-specific bioassays indicated that source water samples of Hh waterworks showed higher genotoxicity and mutagenicity than samples of Yz and Th. An EROD assay demonstrated dioxin-like toxicity which was detected in 5 of 7 source water samples, with toxin concentration levels ranging from 62.40 to 115.51 picograms TCDD equivalents per liter of water (eq./L). PAHs and PCBs were not the main contributors to observed dioxin-like toxicity in detected samples. All source water samples induced estrogenic activities of 8.00-129.00 nanograms 17β-estradiol eq./L, and estrogens, including 17α-ethinylestradiol and estriol, contributed 40.38-84.15% of the observed activities in examined samples. While drinking water treatments efficiently removed TOPs and their toxic effects, and estrogenic activity was still observed in drinking water samples of Hh. Altogether, this study indicated that the representative source water in eastern China, especially that found in Hh, may negatively affect human health, a finding that demonstrates an urgent requirement for advanced drinking water treatments.

Human Exposure to Perfluorochemicals

Jian JM, Guo Y, Zeng L, Liang-Ying L, Lu X, Wang F, Zeng EY. Global distribution of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in potential human exposure source-A review. Environ Int. 2017 Aug 8;108:51-62. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.07.024.

Human exposure to perfluorochemicals (PFCs) has attracted mounting attention due to their potential harmful effects. Breathing, dietary intake, and drinking are believed to be the main routes for PFC entering into human body. Thus, we profiled PFC compositions and concentrations in indoor air and dust, food, and drinking water with detailed analysis of literature data published after 2010. Concentrations of PFCs in air and dust samples collected from home, office, and vehicle were outlined. The results showed that neutral PFCs (e.g., fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs) and perfluorooctane sulfonamide ethanols (FOSEs)) should be given attention in addition to PFOS and PFOA. We summarized PFC concentrations in various food items, including vegetables, dairy products, beverages, eggs, meat products, fish, and shellfish. We showed that humans are subject to the dietary PFC exposure mostly through fish and shellfish consumption. Concentrations of PFCs in different drinking water samples collected from various countries were analyzed. Well water and tap water contained relatively higher PFC concentrations than other types of drinking water. Furthermore, PFC contamination in drinking water was influenced by the techniques for drinking water treatment and bottle-originating pollution.