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Sci Total Environ. 2012 Nov 1;438:404-13. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.08.073. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

Comprehensive study of ibuprofen and its metabolites in activated sludge batch experiments and aquatic environment.

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ICRA, Catalan Institute for Water Research, Carrer Emili Grahit, 101, Parc Científic i Tecnològic de Universitat de Girona, 17003 Girona, Spain.


Even though Ibuprofen is one of the most studied pharmaceutical in the aquatic environment, there is still a lack of information about its fate and the generation of different transformation products along wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Ibuprofen biotransformation products can be generated by human metabolism or by microorganisms present in WWTPs and in natural waters, soils, and sediments, which increase the probability to find them in environment. In this work, the presence of ibuprofen and its main metabolites: ibuprofen carboxylic acid (CBX IBU), 2-hydroxylated ibuprofen (2-OH IBU) and 1-hydroxylated ibuprofen (1-OH IBU), was monitored quantitatively along the biodegradation processes occurring in different batch activated sludge (BAS) experiments under different working conditions. Total ibuprofen removal, achieved in almost all the experiments, was related in part to the formation of the metabolites mentioned. Another ibuprofen metabolite, 1,2-dihydroxy ibuprofen, was detected in BAS experiments for the first time. The metabolites 2-OH IBU and 1-OH IBU remained in solution at the end of ibuprofen biodegradation experiments whereas CBX IBU disappeared faster than hydroxylated metabolites. In addition, also the biodegradation of 1-OH IBU, 2-OH IBU and CBX IBU was evaluated in batch experiments: CBX IBU removal occurred at the highest rate followed by IBU, 2-OH IBU, and 1-OH IBU, which exhibited the lowest removal rate. Finally, Ibuprofen and ibuprofen metabolites were monitored in sewage and natural water samples, where they were found at higher levels than expected: the maximum concentration in influent wastewater samples were 13.74, 5.8, 38.4, 94.0μg/L for IBU, 1-OH IBU, CBX IBU and 2-OH IBU respectively; whereas maximum levels in effluent wastewater samples were 1.9, 1.4, 10.7, 5.9 μg/L for IBU, 1-OH IBU, CBX IBU and 2-OH IBU respectively. High levels of the compounds were also found in river samples, in particular for CBX IBU, which was detected up to 3.9 μg/L.

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