Discharge of biocidal products from healthcare activities into a sewage system—a case study at a French university hospital


This study focused on the presence of three biocidal products specific to healthcare facilities, i.e. chlorhexidine digluconate (CHD), bis(aminopropyl)laurylamine (BAPLA), and didecyldimethylammonium chloride (DDAC), in a hospital sewage system. Five sampling campaigns were conducted in 2016 and 2017 throughout the entire Poitiers University Hospital sewage system. DDAC concentrations ranging from 933 ± 119 to 3250 ± 482 μg/L were detected in 24-h composite samples, while lower concentrations (both within the same range) were detected for the two other compounds (i.e. 25 ± 5 to 97 ± 39 μg/L for CHD and 18 ± 3 to 142 ± 16 μg/L for BAPLA). Based on these findings, a mass balance was determined for these discharged compounds to compare the quantities detected in discharges to the amounts used for healthcare in the hospital. Hence, 60–90% of the quantities of DDAC used were found to be present at the hospital sewage outfall. Higher percentages of CHD (100–242%) were noted because of the high presumably quantities used for antiseptic applications, which were not considered in mass balance calculation. Finally, only 10–30% of BAPLA quantities used were detected at the site outfall. Analysis of the results for the different sampling points revealed the nature of the emission sources. For surface applications of DDAC and BAPLA, management of hospital linen is thus a major source of discharged biocidal products, probably following the washing of biocide-soaked textiles used for hospital facility maintenance. Moreover, discharge of biocidal products from a healthcare establishment depends especially on biocide handling practices in the emitting establishment. For BAPLA, compliance with hospital recommended dosages and practices whereby operators are required to prepare tailored quantities of detergents and disinfectants for each specific task could largely explain the limited release of this compound.

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Biological oxygen demand

BOD5 :

5-Day BOD


Chlorhexidine digluconate


EU Biocidal Products Regulation


Chemical oxygen demand


Didecyldimethylammonium chloride


European Chemical Agency


Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act


Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act


Predicted no effect concentration


n-Octanol/water partition coefficient


Quaternary ammonium compound


Suspended solids


United States Environmental Protection Agency


Wastewater treatment plant


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The authors thank the European Community (FEDER) and the French Nouvelle Aquitaine Region for the financial support, as well as the Loire-Bretagne Water Agency and the French Agency for Biodiversity for funding the BIOTECH project. Moreover, we especially thank Lydie Rosa, a student at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Poitiers, for her assistance in evaluation of biocides consumption.

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Correspondence to Marie Deborde.

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Responsible editor: Ester Heath

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Lasek, F., Karpel Vel Leitner, N., Rauwel, G. et al. Discharge of biocidal products from healthcare activities into a sewage system—a case study at a French university hospital. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 4938–4951 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-3882-1

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  • Biocides
  • Discharge
  • Wastewater
  • Hospital effluents
  • Practices