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Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Sep 1;40(17):5282-8.

Consequences of treated water recycling as regards pharmaceuticals and drugs in surface and ground waters of a medium-sized Mediterranean catchment.

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  • 1Laboratoire Hydrosciences Montpellier, UMR 5569, CNRS, IRD, University of Montpellier I and II, cc MSE, 34095 Montpellier 5, France.


In Mediterranean regions where the population is rapidly growing, the risk of water resource contamination by wastewater is likely to increase. This is the case of the Hérault watershed (south of France), where the presence of treated wastewater in surface and ground waters has been shown in a previous study. To assess the consequence of these wastewater contaminations as regards pharmaceuticals and other organic compounds, 16 common pharmaceuticals (amitryptilin, acetylsalicylic acid, carbamazepine, clenbuterol, diazepam, diclofenac, doxepin, gemfibrozil, ibuprofen, imipramine, ketoprofen, naproxen, nordiazepam, paracetamol, salbutamol, and terbutalin) as well as wastewater related pollutants (caffeine, gadolinium anomaly, and boron) were analyzed in wells pumped for potable water supply and in two wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents. In addition, a monitoring along the Lergue River (the main tributary of the Hérault River) was achieved to assess pharmaceutical behavior in surface waters. Pharmaceuticals and other wastewater-related contaminants are present in several reservoirs tapped for drinking water, confirming wastewater contamination; paracetamol, caffeine, and diclofenac are the most frequently detected. Paracetamol is present at rather high concentrations (up to 11 microg/L and 211 ng/L, respectively, in a wastewater effluent and in a drinking water sample). Though degradable in WWTP, caffeine is commonly encountered in surface waters and detected in highly polluted groundwater. On the contrary, acetylsalicylic acid concentrations are generally low despite a large consumption in France; this is related to its metabolism in humans and rapid degradation in the aquatic environment. The monitoring of pharmaceuticals along the Lergue River shows that dilution is sufficient to decrease pharmaceutical values.

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