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‘An investigation into the occurrence and removal of pharmaceuticals in Colombian wastewater’

Botero-Coy, A.M., Martínez-Pachón, D., Boix, C., Rincón, R.J., Castillo, N., Arias-Marín, L.P., Manrique-Losada, L., Torres-Palma, R., Moncayo-Lasso, A., Hernández, F.
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.642 pp. 842-853
acetaminophen, antihypertensive agents, aquatic environment, azithromycin, cholesterol, ciprofloxacin, cloxacillin, data quality, doxycycline, hospitals, ionization, isotope labeling, liquid chromatography, norfloxacin, quality control, solid phase extraction, tandem mass spectrometry, wastewater, wastewater treatment, Colombia
In this work, the presence of 20 pharmaceuticals in wastewater from Colombia is investigated. Several widely consumed compounds have been detected in wastewater samples from different origins and geographical areas in Colombia. The studied pharmaceuticals included antibiotics, analgesics and anti-inflammatories, cholesterol lowering statin drugs, lipid regulators, and anti-depressants. The investigated samples were urban wastewater collected during one whole week before (influent) and after treatment (effluent) in the wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) of Bogotá and Medellin. Raw wastewater from the Hospital of Tumaco and from the city of Florencia were also collected. Analyses performed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) revealed that most of the target analytes were present in all the wastewater samples. The highest concentrations (up to 50 μg/L) corresponded to acetaminophen, but several antibiotics, such as azithromycin, ciprofloxacin and norfloxacin, and antihypertensive drugs, such as losartan and valsartan, were commonly present in influent wastewater (IWW) at levels above 1 μg/L. Moreover, the treatment applied in WWTPs seemed to not efficiently remove the compounds under study, because most pharmaceuticals were also present in effluent wastewater (EWW) at concentrations close to those of the IWW. Special emphasis was made in this work on the quality of data reported, performing a detailed study of quality control (QC) samples. The analytical approach used –direct injection of 5-fold diluted samples without any additional treatment – is simpler and faster than the commonly applied solid phase extraction (SPE). The use of 12 isotope-labelled internal standards ensured the satisfactory correction of matrix effects for the corresponding analytes. For the remaining 8 compounds, no drastic matrix effects were observed, and only four compounds (cloxacillin, doxycycline, losartan, tetracycline) presented QC recoveries near or slightly below 60%, revealing ionization suppression, particularly in the IWW. Data on the occurrence of pharmaceuticals reported in this paper are the basis for current studies that aim to develop efficient systems for the degradation/removal of these compounds from the aquatic environment.