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Sewage lagoons remove most -- but not all -- pharmaceuticals
Date:2/14/2013

ollected samples from various steps during the treatment process for analysis.

The researchers then tested the samples for the presence of 21 commonly used PPCPs and hormones, including caffeine and ibuprofen.

The team found that the lagoon treatment system reduced concentrations of most of the tested compounds. The overall removal efficiency ranged from 88 to 100 percent in September, except for the compound carbamazepine, a drug used for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder that is notoriously difficult to remove from wastewater. There were no detectable steroid hormones in the aerated lagoons and effluent.

Interestingly, the samples collected in November contained higher concentrations of all detected PPCPs than the samples collected in September. According to Zheng, this is most likely because the microorganisms that break down the compounds work best in warm weather.

Although the efficiency of rural sewage treatment lagoons is relatively high, this study shows that there is a significant increase in the occurrence of PPCPs in surrounding watersheds with the effluent discharge, which could change the rural aquatic environment.

"Some compounds are easy to degrade and remove using this lagoon treatment system, but some compounds are persistent," Zheng said. "When these persistent compounds are introduced into the environment through effluent discharge, they may contaminate water sources and affect the watershed ecosystem."

Because people eventually consume this water, the presence of PPCPs and steroid hormones is a concern, Zheng said.

"Pharmaceutical residues are usually detected in the aquatic environment at very low concentrations, below their therapeutic doses employed for medical purposes," he said. "However, long-term chronic exposure to these emerging contaminants in water supplies may jeopardize human and aquatic habitat health."

The research also is useful for addressing
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Contact: Chelsey Coombs
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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