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 To proliferate or not to proliferate
21.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für molekulare Zellbiologie und Genetik

nachricht Discovery of a Primordial Metabolism in Microbes
21.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

To proliferate or not to proliferate

21.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Magnetic micro-boats

21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Motorless pumps and self-regulating valves made from ultrathin film

21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>