A solid-phase extraction method for rapidly determining the adsorption coefficient of pharmaceuticals in sewage sludge

Laurence Berthod, Gary Roberts, David C. Whitley, Alan Sharpe, Graham A. Mills

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The partitioning of pharmaceuticals in the environment can be assessed by measuring their adsorption coefficients (Kd) between aqueous and solid phases. Measuring this coefficient in sewage sludge gives an indication of their partitioning behaviour in a wastewater treatment plant and hence contributes to an understanding of their subsequent fate. The regulatory approved method for measuring Kd in sewage sludge is the US Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) guideline 835.1110, which is labour intensive and time consuming. We describe an alternative method for measuring the Kd of pharmaceuticals in sewage sludge using a modified solid-phase extraction (SPE) technique. SPE cartridges were packed at different sludge/PTFE ratios (0.4, 6.0, 24.0 and 40.0% w/w sludge) and eluted with phosphate buffer at pH 7.4. The approach was tested initially using three pharmaceuticals (clofibric acid, diclofenac and oxytetracycline) that covered a range of Kd values. Subsequently, the sorption behaviour of ten further pharmaceuticals with varying physico-chemical properties was evaluated. Results from the SPE method were comparable to those of the OPPTS test, with a correlation coefficient of 0.93 between the two approaches. SPE cartridges packed with sludge and PTFE were stable for up to one year; use within one month reduced variability in measurements (to a maximum of 0.6 log units). The SPE method is low-cost, easy to use and enables the rapid measurement of Kd values for a large number of chemicals. It can be used as an alternative to the more laborious full OPPTS test in environmental fate studies and risk assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-298
Number of pages7
JournalWater Research
Early online date22 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2014


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  • BB/I532853/1


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