Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Some treatment plants effectively remove drugs, hormones from wastewater

26.08.2004


Given the number of human pharmaceuticals and hormones that make their way into wastewater, some people are concerned about how well treatment plants that turn sewage into reusable water remove these chemicals.



New research shows that wastewater treatment plants that employ a combination of purifying techniques followed by reverse osmosis - a process by which water is forced through a barrier that only water can pass - do a good job of removing chemicals that may elicit health effects.

Details were presented today (Aug. 25), at the 228th American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia as part of a special symposium on pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment.


"As the demand for water continues to increase, especially in arid areas, there’s greater pressure placed on an already shrinking water supply," says Joel Pedersen, a University of Wisconsin-Madison environmental chemist, who co-authored a paper detailing this research. "More people are considering the reuse of water."

Wastewater reclamation plants - treatment plants that use additional processes to purify sewage - are already in operation. They produce water to irrigate crops, highway landscaping, golf courses and parks, as well as to be reintroduced into the ground for groundwater recharge, which ultimately could end up in drinking-water supplies.

While this treatment process has the promise to save an evaporating natural resource, Pedersen points out that little is known about just how well water-reclamation plants remove the pharmaceuticals and hormones that typically are found in sewage.

"One concern about water that comes from water-reclamation plants," says the Wisconsin scientist, "is that drugs and hormones in this water aren’t removed during the treatment process."

As Pedersen explains, wastewater typically contains any number of pharmaceuticals and hormones that people have either excreted or flushed away for easy disposal. Many times, these chemical compounds remain biologically active, he says, adding that some of them, especially hormones such as estrogen, appear to significantly alter aquatic organisms.

To investigate how well reclamation plants remove potentially harmful drugs and hormones from wastewater, Pedersen and environmental scientists from the University of California Los Angeles tested the water coming out of three Californian treatment plants, two of which produced recycled water used to recharge groundwater. They looked for detectable levels of 19 contaminants, including ibuprofen, caffeine, testosterone, and drugs that lower cholesterol and inhibit seizures.

Pedersen says that the presence of these drugs and hormones in the reused wastewater would be of particular concern if the concentrations were high enough to elicit health and ecological effects. Much work still needs to be done to determine whether low levels found in wastewater are a cause for concern, he adds.

The team of scientists sampled water from all three plants both before and after the water underwent additional treatment processes. While wastewater that had undergone conventional treatment was filtered to remove larger particles, the reclamation plants used additional techniques to remove smaller particles - such as adding lime before filtration or passing water through a microfilter - and then reverse osmosis, a method by which water is forced through a semipermeable membrane that blocks the passage of other molecules.

The research shows that water-reclamation plants employing reverse osmosis do in fact remove more contaminants.

For example, the conventional treatment plant, which after initial treatment still contained detectable levels of 13 of the different contaminants under study, eliminated only five of them from the discharged water. The two reclamation plants, which had 16 and 14 different contaminants present after initial treatment, eliminated 16 and 12 of the chemical compounds, respectively.

"Conventional wastewater treatment processes don’t eliminate pharmaceuticals and hormones as effectively, resulting in the release of low levels of these compounds into the environment," says Pedersen. "The more advanced processes, on the other hand, do a pretty good job at removing compounds."

Yet, exactly what these differences in contaminant removal may mean for the environment - and even human health - remains uncertain, says Pedersen. "This is a case where the analytical chemistry is ahead of the toxicology," he says. "Right now, the ecological effects of chronic low-level exposure to many of these pharmaceuticals are unknown."

Joel Pedersen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht NUI Galway highlights reproductive flexibility in hydractinia, a Galway bay jellyfish
24.02.2020 | National University of Ireland Galway

nachricht Sneaking up on tiny crystals with electron diffraction
24.02.2020 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A step towards controlling spin-dependent petahertz electronics by material defects

The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.

Light waves perform several hundred trillion oscillations per second. Hence, it is natural to envision employing light oscillations to drive the electronic...

Im Focus: Freiburg researcher investigate the origins of surface texture

Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.

Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

A genetic map for maize

24.02.2020 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Where is the greatest risk to our mineral resource supplies?

24.02.2020 | Earth Sciences

Computer vision is used for boosting pest control efficacy via sterile insect technique

24.02.2020 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>