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Water Res. 2011 Nov 15;45(18):6097-106. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2011.09.008. Epub 2011 Sep 10.

Photodegradation of psychiatric pharmaceuticals in aquatic environments--kinetics and photodegradation products.

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Department of Chemistry and CESAM (Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies), University of Aveiro, Campus de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal.


Benzodiazepines are widely consumed psychiatric pharmaceuticals which are frequently detected in the environment. The environmental persistence and fate of these pharmaceuticals as well as their degradation products is of high relevance and it is, yet, scarcely elucidated. In this study, the relevance of photodegradation processes on the environmental persistence of four benzodiazepines (oxazepam, diazepam, lorazepam and alprazolam) was investigated. Benzodiazepines were irradiated under simulated solar irradiation and direct and indirect (together with three different fractions of humic substances) photodegradation kinetics were determined. Lorazepam was shown to be quickly photodegradated by direct solar radiation, with a half-life time lower than one summer sunny day. On the contrary, oxazepam, diazepam and alprazolam showed to be highly resistant to photodegradation with half-life times of 4, 7 and 228 summer sunny days, respectively. Apparent indirect and direct photodegradation rates are of the same order of magnitude. However, humic acids were consistently responsible for a decrease in the photodegradation rates while fulvic acids and XAD4 fraction caused an enhancement of the photodegradation. Overall, the results highlight that photodegradation might not be an efficient pathway to prevent the aquatic environmental accumulation of oxazepam, diazepam and alprazolam. Also, nineteen direct photodegradation products were identified by electrospray mass spectrometry, the majority of which are newly identified photoproducts. This identification is crucial to a more complete understanding of the environmental impact of benzodiazepines in aquatic systems.

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