Effect of sewage sludge type on the partitioning behaviour of pharmaceuticals: a meta-analysis

L. Berthod, G. Roberts, A. Sharpe, D. C. Whitley, R. Greenwood, G. A. Mills

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Assessment of the fate of pharmaceutical residues in the environment involves the measurement or prediction of their sewage sludge partition coefficient (Kd). Sewage sludge can be classified into four types: primary, activated, secondary and digested, each one with different physical and chemical properties. Published studies have measured Kd for pharmaceuticals in a variety of sludge types. This paper discusses the variability of reported Kd values of pharmaceuticals in different types of sewage sludge, using a dataset generated from the literature. Using a meta-analysis approach, it was shown that the measured Kd values depend on the type of sludge used in the test. Recommendations are given for the type of sludge to be used when studying the partitioning behaviour of pharmaceuticals in waste water treatment plants. Activated sludge is preferred due to its more homogenous nature and the ease of collection of consistent samples at a plant. Weak statistical relationships were found between Kd values for activated and secondary sludge, and for activated and digested sludge. Pooling of Kd values for these sludge types is not recommended for preliminary fate and risk assessments. In contrast, statistical analyses found stronger similarities between Kd values reported for the same pharmaceutical in primary and activated sludges. This allows the pooling of experimental values for these two sludge types to obtain a larger dataset for modelling purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-163
JournalEnvironmental Science: Water Research and Technology
Issue number1
Early online date26 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • RCUK
  • BB/I532853/1


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