Send to

Choose Destination
Sci Total Environ. 2011 Aug 15;409(18):3409-17. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.05.053.

Occurrence and concentrations of pharmaceutical compounds in groundwater used for public drinking-water supply in California.

Author information

U.S. Geological Survey California Water Science Center, 6000 J Street, Placer Hall, Sacramento, CA 95819-6129, USA.


Pharmaceutical compounds were detected at low concentrations in 2.3% of 1231 samples of groundwater (median depth to top of screened interval in wells=61 m) used for public drinking-water supply in California. Samples were collected statewide for the California State Water Resources Control Board's Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. Of 14 pharmaceutical compounds analyzed, 7 were detected at concentrations greater than or equal to method detection limits: acetaminophen (used as an analgesic, detection frequency 0.32%, maximum concentration 1.89 μg/L), caffeine (stimulant, 0.24%, 0.29 μg/L), carbamazepine (mood stabilizer, 1.5%, 0.42 μg/L), codeine (opioid analgesic, 0.16%, 0.214 μg/L), p-xanthine (caffeine metabolite, 0.08%, 0.12 μg/L), sulfamethoxazole (antibiotic, 0.41%, 0.17 μg/L), and trimethoprim (antibiotic, 0.08%, 0.018 μg/L). Detection frequencies of pesticides (33%), volatile organic compounds not including trihalomethanes (23%), and trihalomethanes (28%) in the same 1231 samples were significantly higher. Median detected concentration of pharmaceutical compounds was similar to those of volatile organic compounds, and higher than that of pesticides. Pharmaceutical compounds were detected in 3.3% of the 855 samples containing modern groundwater (tritium activity>0.2 TU). Pharmaceutical detections were significantly positively correlated with detections of urban-use herbicides and insecticides, detections of volatile organic compounds, and percentage of urban land use around wells. Groundwater from the Los Angeles metropolitan area had higher detection frequencies of pharmaceuticals and other anthropogenic compounds than groundwater from other areas of the state with similar proportions of urban land use. The higher detection frequencies may reflect that groundwater flow systems in Los Angeles area basins are dominated by engineered recharge and intensive groundwater pumping.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center