Performance and efficiency of removal of pharmaceutical compounds
from hospital wastewater by lab-scale biological treatment system
Received: 17 November 2017 / Accepted: 4 March 2018 /Published online: 12 March 2018
Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018
The fate of pharmaceuticals after discharged from hospital into wastewater was clarified experimentally by using a new lab-scale
conventional activated sludge (CAS) treatment reactor. The 43 target compounds belong to nine therapeutic classes (antivirals,
antibacterials, anticancer drugs, psychotropics, antihypertensives, analgesic–antipyretics, contrast media, herbal medicines, and
phytoestrogens) were selected with inclusion of 16 newly estimated compounds. The efficiency of the present reactor was
estimated by comparing the reaction rate constant of the solid-water partition coefficients (log K
) between liquid and solid
samples and half-life during 48-h experiment obtained by using hospital effluents with those obtained by using STP wastewater.
The results that no significant difference in removal efficiency was observed between both water samples (P > 0.05) indicate high
reliability of the present lab-scale reactor. The actual rates of removal when hospital effluent was applied varied widely (mean, 59
± 40%) independent of type of the pharmaceuticals. More than 90% of 17 compounds were removed after 8 h of treatment.
However, the values for psychotropics (mean, 19 ± 26%) and contrast media (mean, 24 ± 17%) were generally low, indicating
high stability. The log K
values ranged from 1.3 to 4.8. Notably, clarithromycin, acridine, and glycitein could be removed in both
liquid and solid phases. The dominant removal mechanisms were found to be different for individual pharmaceutical. These
results suggest the effectiveness of introduction of the lab-scale biological treatment system for development of a new solution for
discharge of pharmaceuticals from hospital.
Conventional activated sludge process (CAS)
coefficient (log K
Sewage treatment plants (STPs)
Environmental water pollution due to pharmaceuticals has
been widely reported (Evgenidou et al. 2015; Tiedeken et al.
2017). The occurrence and fate of pharmaceuticals together
with their metabolites in river water and sewage treatment
plants (STPs) have been extensively studied (Alygizakis
et al. 2016; López-Serna et al. 2013) and evaluation of their
toxicological risk to aquatic ecosystems has also been reported
(Pereira et al. 2016; Zhang et al. 2017).
Because pharmaceuticals are continuously used in hospitals
and health clinics, the pollutant load of pharmaceuticals in the
wastewater from medical facilities has become matter of con-
cern (Azuma et al. 2016; Ferrando-Climent et al. 2014; Martín
et al. 2012;Negreiraetal.2014; Verlicchi 2017; Verlicchi et al.
2015) Hospital effluent contributed 0.1–75% to the total phar-
maceuticals detected in STP influent (Oliveira et al. 2015;
Santos et al. 2013;Weissbrodtetal.2009); in particular, ratios
of anticancer drugs (1–14% (Azuma et al. 2016; Besse et al.
2012)), antimicrobials (1–41% (Coutu et al. 2013;Santosetal.
2013)), and X-ray contrast agents (5–71% (Santos et al. 2013;
Weissbrodt et al. 2009)) were high. These results emphasize the
importance of further studies of hospital effluent.
In Japan, urbanization is advanced, and more than 99% of
urban areas with high population density are sewered (Japan
Responsible editor: Ester Heath
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-1688-9) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
* Takashi Azuma
Osaka University of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 4–20–1Nasahara,
Takatsuki, Osaka 569–1094, Japan
Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2018) 25:14647–14655