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Phytotoxicity of wastewater-born micropollutants – Characterisation of three antimycotics and a cationic surfactant

Richter, Elisabeth, Roller, Elias, Kunkel, Uwe, Ternes, Thomas A., Coors, Anja
Environmental pollution 2016 v.208 pp. 512-522
Brassica napus, Lemna minor, bioaccumulation, cationic surfactants, chlorides, drugs, fluconazole, fungicides, ketoconazole, median effective concentration, personal care products, phytotoxicity, plant hormones, plants (botany), pollutants, risk, sewage sludge, shoots, soil, wastewater
Sewage sludge applied to soil may be a valuable fertiliser but can also introduce poorly degradable and highly adsorptive wastewater-born residues of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) to the soil, posing a potential risk to the receiving environment. Three azole antimycotics (climbazole, ketoconazole and fluconazole), and one quaternary ammonium compound (benzyldimethyldodecylammonium chloride, BDDA) that are frequently detected in municipal sewage sludge and/or treated wastewater were therefore characterised in their toxicity toward terrestrial (Brassica napus) and aquatic (Lemna minor) plants. Fluconazole and climbazole showed the greatest toxicity to B. napus, while toxicity of ketoconazole and BDDA was by one to two orders of magnitude lower. Sludge amendment to soil at an agriculturally realistic rate of 5 t/ha significantly reduced the bioconcentration of BDDA in B. napus shoots compared to tests without sludge amendment, although not significantly reducing phytotoxicity. Ketoconazole, fluconazole and BDDA proved to be very toxic to L. minor with median effective concentrations ranging from 55.7 μg/L to 969 μg/L. In aquatic as well as terrestrial plants, the investigated azoles exhibited growth-retarding symptoms presumably related to an interference with phytohormone synthesis as known for structurally similar fungicides used in agriculture. While all four substances exhibited considerable phytotoxicity, the effective concentrations were at least one order of magnitude higher than concentrations measured in sewage sludge and effluent. Based on preliminary hazard quotients, BDDA and climbazole appeared to be of greater environmental concern than the two pharmaceuticals fluconazole and ketoconazole.