Category Archives: Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products

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.

Algae Removal of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products (PPCPs); Lake Mead

Bai X, Acharya K. Algae-mediated removal of selected pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) from Lake Mead water. The Science of the total environment. 2017 Jan 12. pii: S0048-9697(16)32890-X. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.12.192.

The persistence and fate of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in the Lake Mead ecosystem are particularly important considering the potential ecological risks and human health impacts. This study evaluated the removal of five common PPCPs (i.e., trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, carbamazepine, ciprofloxacin, and triclosan) from Lake Mead water mediated by the green alga Nannochloris sp. The results from the incubation studies showed that trimethoprim and carbamazepine were highly resistant to uptake in the algal cultural medium and were measured at approximately 90%-100% of the applied dose after 14days of incubation. Sulfamethoxazole was found relatively persistent, with >60% of the applied dose remaining in the water after 14days, and its removal was mainly caused by algae-mediated photolysis. However, ciprofloxacin and triclosan dissipated significantly and nearly 100% of the compounds were removed from the water after 7days of incubation under 24h of light. Ciprofloxacin and triclosan were highly susceptible to light, and their estimated half-lives were 12.7hours for ciprofloxacin and 31.2hours for triclosan. Algae-mediated sorption contributed to 11% of the removal of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole, 13% of the removal of carbamazepine, and 27% of the removal of triclosan from the lake water. This research showed that 1) trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, and carbamazepine are quite persistent in aquatic environments and may potentially affect human health via drinking water intake; 2) photolysis is the dominant pathway to remove ciprofloxacin from aquatic ecosystems, which indicates that ciprofloxacin may have lower ecological risks compared with other PPCPs; and 3) triclosan can undergo photolysis as well as algae-mediated uptake and it may potentially affect the food web because of its high toxicity to aquatic species.

Can Wastewater Microbes Metabolize Pharmaceuticals?

Balcom IN, Driscoll H, Vincent J, Leduc M. Metagenomic analysis of an ecological wastewater treatment plant’s microbial communities and their potential to metabolize pharmaceuticals. F1000Res. 2016 Jul 28;5:1881. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.9157.1. eCollection 2016.

Pharmaceuticals and other micropollutants have been detected in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, and soil around the world. Even in locations where wastewater treatment is required, they can be found in drinking water wells, municipal water supplies, and agricultural soils. It is clear conventional wastewater treatment technologies are not meeting the challenge of the mounting pressures on global freshwater supplies. Cost-effective ecological wastewater treatment technologies have been developed in response. To determine whether the removal of micropollutants in ecological wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is promoted by the plant-microbe interactions, as has been reported for other recalcitrant xenobiotics, biofilm microbial communities growing on the surfaces of plant roots were profiled by whole metagenome sequencing and compared to the microbial communities residing in the wastewater. In this study, the concentrations of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) were quantified in each treatment tank of the ecological WWTP treating human wastewater at a highway rest stop and visitor center in Vermont. The concentrations of detected PPCPs were substantially greater than values reported for conventional WWTPs likely due to onsite recirculation of wastewater. The greatest reductions in PPCPs concentrations were observed in the anoxic treatment tank where Bacilli dominated the biofilm community. Benzoate degradation was the most abundant xenobiotic metabolic category identified throughout the system. Collectively, the microbial communities residing in the wastewater were taxonomically and metabolically more diverse than the immersed plant root biofilm. However, greater heterogeneity and higher relative abundances of xenobiotic metabolism genes was observed for the root biofilm.

Emerging Contaminants in Brazil Drinking and Source Waters

Machado KC, Grassi MT, Vidal C, Pescara IC, Jardim WF, Fernandes AN, Sodré FF, Almeida FV, Santana JS, Canela MC, Nunes CR, Bichinho KM, Severo FJ. A preliminary nationwide survey of the presence of emerging contaminants in drinking and source waters in Brazil. The Science of the total environment. 2016 Aug 2;572:138-146. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.07.210.

This is the first nationwide survey of emerging contaminants in Brazilian waters. One hundred drinking water samples were investigated in 22 Brazilian state capitals. In addition, seven source water samples from two of the most populous regions of the country were evaluated. Samples were collected from June to September of 2011 and again during the same period in 2012. The study covered emerging contaminants of different classes, including hormones, plasticizers, herbicides, triclosan and caffeine. The analytical method for the determination of the compounds was based on solid-phase extraction followed by analysis via liquid chromatography electrospray triple-quadrupole mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Caffeine, triclosan, atrazine, phenolphthalein and bisphenol A were found in at least one of the samples collected in the two sampling campaigns. Caffeine and atrazine were the most frequently detected substances in both drinking and source water. Caffeine concentrations in drinking water ranged from 1.8ngL-1 to values above 2.0μgL-1 while source-water concentrations varied from 40ngL-1 to about 19μgL-1. For atrazine, concentrations were found in the range from 2.0 to 6.0ngL-1 in drinking water and at concentrations of up to 15ngL-1 in source water. The widespread presence of caffeine in samples of treated water is an indication of the presence of domestic sewage in the source water, considering that caffeine is a compound of anthropogenic origin.

Salicylic Acid Transformation via Ozonation

Hu R, Zhang L, Hu J. Study on the kinetics and transformation products of salicylic acid in water via ozonationChemosphere. 2016 Mar 28;153:394-404. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.03.074.

As salicylic acid is one of widely used pharmaceuticals, its residue has been found in various environmental water systems e.g. wastewater, surface water, treated water and drinking water. It has been reported that salicylic acid can be efficiently removed by advanced oxidation processes, but there are few studies on its transformation products and ozonation mechanisms during ozonation process. The objective of this study is to characterize the transformation products, investigate the degradation mechanisms at different pH, and propose the ozonation pathways of salicylic acid. The results showed that the rate of degradation was about 10 times higher at acidic condition than that at alkaline condition in the first 1 min when 1 mg L-1 of ozone solution was added into 1 mg L-1 of salicylic acid solution. It was proposed that ozone direct oxidation mechanism dominates at acidic condition, while indirect OH radical mechanism dominates at alkaline condition. A two stages pseudo-first order reaction was proposed at different pH conditions. Various hydroxylation products, carbonyl compounds and carboxylic acids, such as 2,5-dihydroxylbenzoic acid, 2,3-dihydroxylbenzoic acid, catechol, formaldehyde, glyoxal, acetaldehyde, maleic acid, acetic acid and oxalic acid etc. were identified as ozonation transformation products. In addition, acrylic acid was identified, for the first time, as ozonation transformation products through high resolution liquid chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometer. The information demonstrated in this study will help us to better understand the possible effects of ozonation products on the water quality. The degradation pathways of salicylic acid by ozonation in water sample were proposed. As both O3 and OH radical were important in the reactions, the degradation pathways of salicylic acid by ozonation in water sample were proposed at acidic and basic conditions. To our knowledge, there was no integrated study reported on the ozonation of salicylic acid in water, in terms of transformation products, kinetic, mechanism, as well as degradation pathways.

Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) in Advanced Treated Drinking Water, Taihu Lake, China

Lin T, Yu S, Chen W. Occurrence, removal and risk assessment of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in an advanced drinking water treatment plant (ADWTP) around Taihu Lake in China. Chemosphere. 2016 Mar 1;152:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.02.109.

The occurrence and removal of 39 selected pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) were investigated in an advanced drinking water treatment plant (ADWTP) around Taihu Lake. Fourteen of 39 targeted pharmaceuticals were detected in the raw water. After a series of purification processes, only indomethacin, caffeine and sulfamethoxazole were found in effluent, albeit at concentrations less than 2 ng L-1. The results of principal component analysis suggested that three main purification processes, oxidation, coagulation combined with sedimentation and filtration combined with bio-degradation, influenced the removal performance of PPCPs. The ecotoxicological and human health risk assessment confirmed that drugs detected in effluent posed no potential toxicity and also suggested that two PPCPs (roxithromycin and sulfamethoxazole), especially sulfamethoxazole, should be seriously considered as candidates for regulatory monitoring and prioritization. Finally, the correlation between removal efficiency and risk quotient indicated that uniform removal efficiency for all PPCPs may not reflect an equal risk control in the ADWTP.

Trace Hormone Removal by UV Photolysis with Nanofiltration

Sanches S, Rodrigues A, Cardoso VV, Benoliel MJ, Crespo JG, Pereira VJ. Comparison of UV photolysis, nanofiltration, and their combination to remove hormones from a drinking watersource and reduce endocrine disrupting activity. Environmental science and pollution research international. 2016 Feb 29.

A sequential water treatment combining low pressure ultraviolet direct photolysis with nanofiltration was evaluated to remove hormones from water, reduce endocrine disrupting activity, and overcome the drawbacks associated with the individual processes (production of a nanofiltration-concentrated retentate and formation of toxic by-products). 17β-Estradiol, 17α-ethinylestradiol, estrone, estriol, and progesterone were spiked into a real water sample collected after the sedimentation process of a drinking water treatment plant. Even though the nanofiltration process alone showed similar results to the combined treatment in terms of the water quality produced, the combined treatment offered advantage in terms of the load of the retentate and decrease in the endocrine-disrupting activity of the samples. Moreover, the photolysis by-products produced, with higher endocrine disrupting activity than the parent compounds, were effectively retained by the membrane. The combination of direct LP/UV photolysis with nanofiltration is promising for a drinking water utility that needs to cope with sudden punctual discharges or deterioration of the water quality and wants to decrease the levels of chemicals in the nanofiltration retentate.