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Removal of β-lactam antibiotics from pharmaceutical wastewaters using photo-Fenton process at near-neutral pH

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In this work, the photo-Fenton process at near-neutral pH was applied for the removal of the β-lactam antibiotic oxacillin (OXA) in water using artificial and sunlight. Initially, the main variables of the process (Fe(II), H2O2, and light power) were optimized by a statistical factorial design (23 with center points). The experimental design indicated that 90 μmol L−1 of Fe(II), 10 mmol L−1 of H2O2, and 30 W of power light were the favorable conditions for degradation of OXA at 203 μmol L−1. In the photo-Fenton system, the H2O2 alone, UV-light/H2O2, and Fe(II)/H2O2 subsystems presented a significant participation on antibiotic removal. Moreover, based on the primary organic transformation products, a mechanism of OXA degradation was proposed. Under the favorable operational conditions, both the pollutant and the antimicrobial activity were eliminated after 50 min of process application. Although at 480 min of treatment, only 5% of mineralization was achieved, the level of biodegradability of the solutions increased from 0.08 to 0.98. Interestingly, the presence of pharmaceutical additives (glucose, isopropanol, and oxalic acid) had a moderate interference on the efficiency of the pollutant removal. Additionally, the treatment at pilot scale of the β-lactam antibiotic in a pharmaceutical complex matrix using solar radiation allowed the complete removal of the pollutant and its associated antimicrobial activity in a very short time period (5 min). These results evidenced the applicability of the photo-Fenton process to treat wastewaters from pharmaceutical industry loaded with β-lactam antibiotics at near neutral pH values efficiently.

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The authors thank Colciencias and Swiss National Foundation for the financial support to this study within the projects: “Implementación de metodologías eficientes y confiables para degradar residuos de antimicrobianos en el hogar y en efluentes industriales” and “Treatment of the hospital wastewaters in Cote d’Ivoire and in Colombia by advanced oxidation processes,” respectively. E. Serna-Galvis thanks Colciencias for his doctoral scholarship (Convocatoria 647 de 2014). Finally, the authors thank the mechanical and technical support by Sami Rtimi and André Fattet.

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Correspondence to Ricardo A. Torres-Palma.

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Responsible editor: Vítor Pais Vilar

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Giraldo-Aguirre, A.L., Serna-Galvis, E.A., Erazo-Erazo, E.D. et al. Removal of β-lactam antibiotics from pharmaceutical wastewaters using photo-Fenton process at near-neutral pH. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 20293–20303 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-8420-z

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  • Photo-Fenton
  • Near-neutral pH
  • Advanced oxidation process
  • Water treatment
  • Matrix effects
  • Antimicrobial activity