Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 397, Issue 1, pp 287–296 | Cite as

Holistic visualisation of the multimodal transport and fate of twelve pharmaceuticals in biosolid enriched topsoils

  • Leon BarronEmail author
  • Ekaterina Nesterenko
  • Kris Hart
  • Emma Power
  • Brian Quinn
  • Brian Kelleher
  • Brett Paull
Original Paper


The use of municipal biosolids as agricultural fertilisers has raised significant concerns in recent years. As part of this, the presence of complex mixtures of pharmaceutical residues and their effects on soil ecosystems remains particularly under-researched. This study focuses on the transfer of a selection of pharmaceutical residues from municipal sewage sludge to agricultural topsoils and their fate therein after an accelerated 6-month rainfall event. Twelve pharmaceuticals encompassing antibiotics, analgesics, anti-inflammatories, beta-blockers, hyperlipidaemics and stimulants were invesigated by employing a combination of extraction techniques and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Both liquid- and solid-phase pharmaceutical contents were analysed and pharmaceutical and personal care products quantified at defined timepoints to elucidate transport behaviour and transformation potential. Results show the distribution and separation of pharmaceuticals over a 100-mm soil depth following typical biosolid enrichment. Using experimentally determined solid–water partition coefficients (Kd) and hydrophobicity distribution ratios (Dow), mobility and modes of interaction under dynamic conditions are discussed. Finally, a brief study into the susceptibility of soil microbes is also presented. To our knowledge, this is the first investigation of pharmaceutical and personal care products release from amended biosolids to soils to include the factors and mechanisms governing their distribution and transformation even over relatively shallow depths. It applies multicompartmental and mass-balanced chemical analyses as well as microbiological approaches for a holistic view of these complex processes.

Transport behaviour and fate of pharmaceuticals in biosolid enriched topsoils


Soil Sludge Transport Transformation Pharmaceuticals 



The authors would like to thank the Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (under the STRIVE and DERP research fellowship schemes) and Science Foundation Ireland for funding this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leon Barron
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ekaterina Nesterenko
    • 2
  • Kris Hart
    • 3
  • Emma Power
    • 4
  • Brian Quinn
    • 4
  • Brian Kelleher
    • 3
  • Brett Paull
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Forensic Science & Drug Monitoring, Pharmaceutical Science Division, Franklin-Wilkins BuildingKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Irish Separation Science Cluster, National Centre for Sensor ResearchDublin City UniversityDublin 9Republic of Ireland
  3. 3.School of Chemical SciencesDublin City UniversityDublin 9Republic of Ireland
  4. 4.Irish Centre for Environmental ToxicologyGalway-Mayo Institute of TechnologyGalwayRepublic of Ireland

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