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Chemosphere. 2017 Jul;179:347-358. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.03.135. Epub 2017 Apr 2.

Removal characteristics of pharmaceuticals and personal care products: Comparison between membrane bioreactor and various biological treatment processes.

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Research Center for Environmental Quality Management, Kyoto University, 1-2 Yumihama, Otsu, Shiga 520-0811, Japan. Electronic address:
Research Center for Environmental Quality Management, Kyoto University, 1-2 Yumihama, Otsu, Shiga 520-0811, Japan.
Department of Environmental Engineering, University of Seoul, 163 Seoulsiripdaero, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 02504, South Korea.
Mitsubishi Rayon CO., LTD., 1-1, Marunouchi 1-chome, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-8253, Japan.


We investigated the concentrations of 57 target compounds in the different treatment units of various biological treatment processes in South Korea, including modified biological nutrient removal (BNR), anaerobic-anoxic-aerobic (A2O), and membrane bioreactor (MBR) systems, to elucidate the occurrence and removal fates of PPCPs in WWTPs. Biological treatment processes appeared to be most effective in eliminating most PPCPs, whereas some PPCPs were additionally removed by post-treatment. With the exception of the MBR process, the A2O system was effective for PPCPs removal. As a result, removal mechanisms were evaluated by calculating the mass balances in A2O and a lab-scale MBR process. The comparative study demonstrated that biodegradation was largely responsible for the improved removal performance found in lab-scale MBR (e.g., in removing bezafibrate, ketoprofen, and atenolol). Triclocarban, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin and tetracycline were adsorbed in large amounts to MBR sludge. Increased biodegradability was also observed in lab-scale MBR, despite the highly adsorbable characteristics. The enhanced biodegradation potential seen in the MBR process thus likely plays a key role in eliminating highly adsorbable compounds as well as non-degradable or persistent PPCPs in other biological treatment processes.


Biological treatment process; Membrane bioreactor; Pharmaceuticals and personal care products; Removal characteristics; Removal mechanisms; Wastewater treatment

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