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Chemosphere. 2012 Apr;87(5):453-62. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.12.025. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Occurrence and removal of pharmaceuticals in wastewater treatment plants at the Spanish Mediterranean area of Valencia.

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Research Institute for Pesticides and Water, University Jaume I, Avda. Sos Baynat, E-12071 Castellón, Spain.


A survey on the presence of pharmaceuticals in urban wastewater of a Spanish Mediterranean area (Castellon province) was carried out. The scope of the study included a wide variety of pharmaceuticals belonging to different therapeutical classes. For this purpose, 112 samples, including influent and effluent wastewater, from different conventional wastewater treatment plants were collected. Two monitoring programmes were carried out along several seasons. The first was in June 2008 and January 2009, and the second in April and October 2009. During the first monitoring, the occurrence of 20 analytes in 84 urban wastewater samples (influent and effluent) was studied. The selection of these pharmaceuticals was mainly based on consumption. From these, 17 compounds were detected in the samples, with analgesics and anti-inflammatories, cholesterol lowering statin drugs and lipid regulators being the most frequently detected groups. 4-Aminoantipyrine, bezafibrate, diclofenac, gemfibrozil, ketoprofen, naproxen and venlafaxine were the compounds most frequently found. In the highlight of these results, the number of analytes was increased up to around 50. A lot of antibiotic compounds were added to the target list as they were considered "priority pharmaceuticals" due to their more potential hazardous effects in the aquatic environment. Data obtained during the second monitoring programme (spring and autumn) corroborated the results from the first one (summer and winter). Analgesics and anti-inflammatories, lipid regulators together with quinolone and macrolide antibiotics were the most abundant pharmaceuticals. Similar median concentrations were found over the year and seasonal variation was not clearly observed. The removal efficiency of pharmaceuticals in the wastewater treatment plants was roughly evaluated. Our results indicated that elimination of most of the selected compounds occurred during the treatment process of influent wastewater, although it was incomplete.

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