Bioassays Currently Available for Evaluating the Biological Potency of Pharmaceuticals in Treated Wastewater

Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 44)


Water deprivation with regard to quantity and quality is one of the most important environmental problems of the century. The increasing demand of water resources puts pressure on the utilization of alternative sources such as treated wastewater. In the context of “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” the inclusion of treated wastewater in the water cycle seems a promising practice for water management. The lack of general acceptance of stakeholders and public, however, still hinders the widespread application of wastewater reuse. A reason for this is, among others, the presence of contaminants of emerging concern in treated wastewater. This has led to an increased concern about direct and indirect effects to the environment and possible implications to human health. The development and application of bioassays able to identify and quantify the biological potency of treated wastewater is an ongoing research effort, especially when taking into consideration that a plethora of contaminants exist and interact in this complex matrix. This chapter summarizes available literature regarding the sensitivity of currently applied bioassays for assessing biological effects of treated wastewater and their correlation with chemical analysis. The focus is on pharmaceuticals since they represent one of the major groups of contaminants of emerging concern with many unanswered questions currently in place.


Effect-directed bioassay Pharmaceutical Toxicity Wastewater reuse 



Contaminants of emerging concern


Chemical Oxygen Demand




Direct toxicity assessment


Effect Concentration




International Organization for Standardization


Lethal Concentration


Lowest Observed Effect Concentration


Minimum Inhibitory Concentration


Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate


No Observed Effect Concentration


Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development


Prostaglandin E2


Photosystem II


Toxic unit


US Environmental Protection Agency


Whole effluent toxicity



This work was prepared in the framework of the PENEK/0609/24 research project “Development of novel methods for the toxicity assessment of the multi-component chemical mixtures to humans and the ecosystem” (TOMIXX), implemented within the framework of the program for research, technological development, and innovation “DESMH 2009–2010” and stimulated by NIREAS activities, the International Water Research Center of the University of Cyprus (ΝΕΑ ΥΠΟΔΟΜΗ/ΣΤΡΑΤΗ/0308/09). These projects are funded by the Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation, which is co-financed by the Republic of Cyprus and the European Regional Development Fund. The authors would also like to acknowledge the financial support provided by COST - European Cooperation in Science and Technology, to the COST Action ES1403: New and emerging challenges and opportunities in wastewater reuse (NEREUS).


The content of this article is the authors’ responsibility and neither COST nor any person acting on its behalf is responsible for the use, which might be made of the information contained in it.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and TechnologyCyprus University of TechnologyLimassolCyprus
  2. 2.Nireas-International Water Research CenterNicosiaCyprus
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of CyprusNicosiaCyprus
  4. 4.Institute of Sustainable and Environmental ChemistryLeuphana University LüneburgLüneburgGermany

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