, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 1141–1147

Tetracycline adsorption on kaolinite: pH, metal cations and humic acid effects


DOI: 10.1007/s10646-011-0665-6

Cite this article as:
Zhao, Y., Geng, J., Wang, X. et al. Ecotoxicology (2011) 20: 1141. doi:10.1007/s10646-011-0665-6


Contamination of environmental matrixes by human and animal wastes containing antibiotics is a growing health concern. Because tetracycline is one of the most widely-used antibiotics in the world, it is important to understand the factors that influence its mobility in soils. This study investigated the effects of pH, background electrolyte cations (Li+, Na+, K+, Ca2+ and Mg2+), heavy metal Cu2+ and humic acid (HA) on tetracycline adsorption onto kaolinite. Results showed that tetracycline was greatly adsorbed by kaolinite over pH 3–6, then decreased with the increase of pH, indicating that tetracycline adsorption mainly through ion exchange of cations species and complexation of zwitterions species. In the presence of five types of cations (Li+, Na+, K+, Ca2+ and Mg2+), tetracycline adsorption decreased in accordance with the increasing of atomic radius and valence of metal cations, which suggested that outer-sphere complexes formed between tetracycline and kaolinite, and the existence of competitor ions lead to the decreasing adsorption. The presence of Cu2+ greatly enhanced the adsorption probably by acting as a bridge ion between tetracycline species and the edge sites of kaolinite. HA also showed a major effect on the adsorption: at pH < 6, the presence of HA increased the adsorption, while the addition of HA showed little effect on tetracycline adsorption at higher pH. The soil environmental conditions, like pH, metal cations and soil organic matter, strongly influence the adsorption behavior of tetracycline onto kaolinite and need to be considered when assessing the environmental toxicity of tetracycline.


Tetracycline Adsorption Kaolinite Copper Cations Humic acid 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resource ReuseSchool of the Environment, Nanjing UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations