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J Environ Monit. 2007 Dec;9(12):1410-8. Epub 2007 Sep 7.

Source to sink tracking of selected human pharmaceuticals from two Oslo city hospitals and a wastewater treatment works.

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  • 1Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), GaustadallĂ©en 21, 0349, Oslo, Norway.


The occurrence of twenty pharmaceutical compounds was quantitatively determined in effluents from two major Oslo city hospitals, Rikshospitalet and UllevÄl, along with influent, sludge and final effluent from the city's VEAS wastewater treatment works (WTW). Composite hospital effluents were collected over a twelve week period and were showed to contain paracetamol, metoprolol, diclofenac, ibuprofen, 17beta-Estradiol, estriol, estrone, oxytetracycline, tetracycline, doxycycline, chlorotetracycline, demeclocycline, trimethoprim, ciprofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole, cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide. Three pharmaceuticals were not detected above the limit of detection; cefuroxime, 17alpha-ethinylestradiol and meclocycline. Composite influent, sludge and effluent samples were collected from VEAS WTW over a seven week period. The influent into VEAS WTW contained all of the same selected substances detected in the hospital effluents, except for oxytetracycline, chlorotetracycline, demeclocycline, cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide. The percentage of pharmaceuticals entering the works from the hospitals was <10% for all of the selected compounds. VEAS sludge samples contained a different profile of substances reflecting their physico-chemical properties. Hydrophobic antibiotics, such as oxytetracycline, tetracycline and ciprofloxacin, were detected in all of the collected sludge samples. Their absence in the collected influent samples suggests that they enter the works bound to effluent particles, with the dissolved fraction observed in the hospital effluents partitioning onto particulate matter within the sewerage network. The final effluent from VEAS WTW contained reduced concentrations of many pharmaceuticals, including paracetamol, ibuprofen and sulfamethoxazole. For other compounds, such as metoprolol, diclofenac and trimethoprim, there were often higher concentrations in the effluent than the influent. These effluent concentrations represent median inputs varying from low g day(-1) (e.g. paracetamol and ibuprofen) to nearly 200 g day(-1) (e.g. metoprolol and trimethoprim) into Oslofjord. A simple risk assessment showed that the antibiotic ciprofloxacin may at times pose an acute risk to the Oslofjord aquatic environment.

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