Occurrence and Elimination of Pharmaceuticals During Conventional Wastewater Treatment

  • Aleksandra JelićEmail author
  • Meritxell Gros
  • Mira Petrović
  • Antoni Ginebreda
  • Damià Barceló
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 19)


Pharmaceuticals have an important role in the treatment and prevention of disease in both humans and animals. Since they are designed either to be highly active or interact with receptors in humans and animals or to be toxic for many infectious organisms, they may also have unintended effects on animals and microorganisms in the environment. Therefore, the occurrence of pharmaceutical compounds in the environment and their potential effects on human and environmental health has become an active subject matter of actual research.

There are several possible sources and routes for pharmaceuticals to reach the environment, but wastewater treatment plants have been identified as the main point of their collection and subsequent release into the environment, via both effluent wastewater and sludge. Conventional systems that use an activated sludge process are still widely employed for wastewater treatment, mostly because they produce effluents that meet required quality standards (suitable for disposal or recycling purposes), at reasonable operating and maintenance costs. However, this type of treatment has been shown to have limited capability of removing pharmaceuticals from wastewater. The following chapter reviews the literature data on the occurrence of these microcontaminants in wastewater influent, effluent, and sludge, and on their removal during conventional wastewater treatment.

Graphical Abstract


Pharmaceuticals Removal Sludge Wastewater 



Hydraulic retention time


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs


Solid retention time


Wastewater treatment plant


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aleksandra Jelić
    • 1
    Email author
  • Meritxell Gros
    • 2
  • Mira Petrović
    • 2
    • 3
  • Antoni Ginebreda
    • 1
  • Damià Barceló
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA)GironaSpain
  3. 3.Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA)BarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.King Saud University (KSU)RiyadhSaudi Arabia

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