Occurrence and overlooked sources of the biocide carbendazim in wastewater and surface water

Sylvain Merel, Saskia Benzing, Carolin Gleiser, Gina Di Napoli-Davis, Christian Zwiener*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Carbendazim is a fungicide commonly used as active substance in plant protection products and biocidal products, for instance to protect facades of buildings against fungi. However, the subsequent occurrence of this fungicide and potential endocrine disruptor in the aqueous environment is a major concern. In this study, high resolution mass spectrometry shows that carbendazim can be detected with an increasing abundance from the source to the mouth of the River Rhine. Unexpectedly, the abundance of carbendazim correlates poorly with that of other fungicides used as active ingredients in plant protection products (r2 of 0.32 for cyproconazole and r2 of 0.57 for propiconazole) but it correlates linearly with that of pharmaceuticals (r2 of 0.86 for carbamazepine and r2 of 0.89 for lamotrigine). These results suggest that the occurrence of carbendazim in surface water comes mainly from the discharge of treated domestic wastewater. This hypothesis is further confirmed by the detection of carbendazim in wastewater effluents (n = 22). In fact, bench-scale leaching tests of textiles and papers revealed that these materials commonly found in households could be a source of carbendazim in domestic wastewater. Moreover, additional river samples collected nearby two paper industries indicate that the discharge of their treated process effluents is also a source of carbendazim in the environment. While characterizing paper and textile as overlooked sources of carbendazim, this study also shows the biocide as a possible ubiquitous wastewater contaminant that would require further systematic and worldwide monitoring due to its toxicological properties. Papers and textiles from households release the fungicide carbendazim which reaches the environment through the discharge of wastewater effluent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-521
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date21 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Carbendazim
  • Fungicide
  • HRMS
  • QTOF
  • Retrospective analysis
  • River Rhine


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