Publications Details
Publications Details



Author: D. Kassinos, E. Hapeshi, A. Achilleos, S. Meric, M. Gros, M. Petrovic and D. Barcelo

Year: 2009

Publisher: European Water Resources Association (EWRA)


For much of the last forty years, research on the effects of chemical pollution of the environment that is related to urban wastewaters’ discharge and reuse has focused almost exclusively on conventional ´priority´ pollutants. However, during the last several years there has been a growing level of concern related to the hypothesis that various chemicals may exhibit endocrine disrupting effects. This is due to increased incidences of endocrine-related diseases in humans, including declining male fertility, and more significantly, to adverse physiological effects observed in wildlife where cause and effect relationships are more evident. In fact, the evidence from these incidences suggests that the changes in the reproductive health of humans, including breast and testicular cancer, birth defects, etc. could be linked to exposure to EDCs (endocrine disrupting compounds). However, no definite cause and effect data have yet been established. EDCs or potential EDCs include compounds such as alkylphenols, alkylphenol polyethoxylates, phthalates, bisphenol-A, polybrominated flame retardants, dioxins, furans, herbicides, pesticides and steroid hormones. As our knowledge of endocrine disrupters increases, so does the list of chemicals that exhibit these properties. In addition to this, thousands of tons of  pharmacologically active substances are used annually, but surprisingly little is known about the ultimate fate of most drugs after their intended use. As the use of cosmetics and antibiotics grows, increasing quantities of their active organic ingredients are released into the environment through wastewater systems. In Cyprus, as well as in many other countries facing prolonged droughts and implementing wastewater reuse schemes for irrigation and groundwater discharge, the existence of xenobiotic compounds in the tertiary treated wastewaters is a new concern. This study describes the application of a recently developed multi-residue method for the determination of 29 multi-class pharmaceuticals using off line solid phase extraction followed by liquid chromatography-triple quadropole mass spectrometry (LC-MS-MS). Target compounds included analgesics and anti-inflammatories, lipid regulators and cholesterol lowering statin drugs, psychiatric drugs, an antiulcer agent, histamine H1 and H2 receptor antagonists, antibiotics and ß-blockers. The method was applied for the analysis of pharmaceutical residues at three sewage treatment plants in Cyprus serving major coastal Mediterranean cities. The samples were taken from inlet, after the secondary treatment stage and outlet. The presence of 19 pharmaceuticals was confirmed. For some of the compounds high concentrations were obtained for the final effluents (e.g. ofloxacin: 4.82 μg/L, diclofenac: 5.51 μg/L, carbamazepine: 27.27 μg/L, metoprolol: 9.59 μg/L). Concerning the elimination potential what was derived from the study is that the biological (secondary step) and physico-chemical  treatments (tertiary step) do not have the same impact on the removal percentage since the majority of the compounds are removed during secondary treatment.