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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2007 Aug;26(8):1553-62.

Wastewater treatment plants as a pathway for aquatic contamination by pharmaceuticals in the ebro river basin (northeast Spain).

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Department of Environmental Chemistry, Instituto de Investigaciones Químicas y Ambientales del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas IIQAB-CSIC, c/Jordi Girona 18-26, 08034 Barcelona, Spain.


The occurrence of 28 pharmaceuticals of major human consumption in Spain, including analgesics and anti-inflammatories, lipid regulators, psychiatric drugs, antibiotics, antihistamines, and beta-blockers, was assessed along the Ebro river basin, one of the biggest irrigated lands in that country. Target compounds were simultaneously analyzed by off-line solid-phase extraction, followed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The loads of detected pharmaceuticals and their removal rates were studied in seven wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) located in the main cities along the basin. Total loads ranged from 2 to 5 and from 0.5 to 1.5 g/d/1,000 inhabitants in influent and effluent wastewaters, respectively. High removal rates (60-90%) were achieved mainly for analgesics and anti-inflammatories. The other groups showed lower rates, ranging from 20 to 60%, and in most cases, the antiepileptic carbamazepine, macrolide antibiotics, and trimethoprim were not eliminated at all. Finally, the contribution of WWTP effluents to the presence of pharmaceuticals in receiving river waters was surveyed. In receiving surface water, the most ubiquitous compounds were the analgesics and anti-inflammatories ibuprofen, diclofenac, and naproxen; the lipid regulators bezafibrate and gemfibrozil; the antibiotics erythromycin, azithromycin, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, and less frequently, ofloxacin; the antiepileptic carbamazepine; the antihistamine ranitidine; and the beta-blockers atenolol and sotalol. Although levels found in WWTP effluents ranged from low microg/L to high ng/L, pharmaceuticals in river waters occurred at levels at least one order of magnitude lower (low ng/L range) because of dilution effect. From the results obtained, it was proved that WWTP are hot spots of aquatic contamination concerning pharmaceuticals of human consumption.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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