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Sci Total Environ. 2013 Sep 1;461-462:302-16. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.04.077. Epub 2013 Jun 1.

Contribution of hospital effluents to the load of pharmaceuticals in urban wastewaters: identification of ecologically relevant pharmaceuticals.

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REQUIMTE, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Porto, Rua Jorge Viterbo Ferreira 228, 4050-313 Porto, Portugal.


The impact of effluent wastewaters from four different hospitals: a university (1456 beds), a general (350 beds), a pediatric (110 beds) and a maternity hospital (96 beds), which are conveyed to the same wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), was evaluated in the receiving urban wastewaters. The occurrence of 78 pharmaceuticals belonging to several therapeutic classes was assessed in hospital effluents and WWTP wastewaters (influent and effluent) as well as the contribution of each hospital in WWTP influent in terms of pharmaceutical load. Results indicate that pharmaceuticals are widespread pollutants in both hospital and urban wastewaters. The contribution of hospitals to the input of pharmaceuticals in urban wastewaters widely varies, according to their dimension. The estimated total mass loadings were 306 g d(-1) for the university hospital, 155 g d(-1) for the general one, 14 g d(-1) for the pediatric hospital and 1.5 g d(-1) for the maternity hospital, showing that the biggest hospitals have a greater contribution to the total mass load of pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, analysis of individual contributions of each therapeutic group showed that NSAIDs, analgesics and antibiotics are among the groups with the highest inputs. Removal efficiency can go from over 90% for pharmaceuticals like acetaminophen and ibuprofen to not removal for β-blockers and salbutamol. Total mass load of pharmaceuticals into receiving surface waters was estimated between 5 and 14 g/d/1000 inhabitants. Finally, the environmental risk posed by pharmaceuticals detected in hospital and WWTP effluents was assessed by means of hazard quotients toward different trophic levels (algae, daphnids and fish). Several pharmaceuticals present in the different matrices were identified as potentially hazardous to aquatic organisms, showing that especial attention should be paid to antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole, azithromycin and clarithromycin, since their hazard quotients in WWTP effluent revealed that they could pose an ecotoxicological risk to algae.


Environmental risk assessment; Hospital effluent; Pharmaceuticals; Removal efficiency; Wastewaters

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