Mass loading and removal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products including psychoactives, antihypertensives, and antibiotics in two sewage treatment plants in southern India

Bikram Subedi, Keshava Balakrishna, Derrick Ian Joshua, Kurunthachalam Kannan

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47 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental contamination by pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) is barely studied in India despite being one of the largest global producers and consumers of pharmaceuticals. In this study, 29 pharmaceuticals and six metabolites were determined in sewage treatment plants (STPs) in Udupi (STPU: population served ∼150,000) and Mangalore (STPM: population served ∼450,000); the measured mean concentrations ranged from 12 to 61,000 ng/L and 5.0 to 31,000 ng/L, respectively. Atorvastatin (the most prescribed antihypercholesterolemic in India), mefenamic acid, and paraxanthine were found for the first time in wastewater in India at the mean concentrations of 395 ng/L, 1100 ng/L, and 13,000 ng/L, respectively. Select pharmaceutical metabolites (norverapamil and clopidogrel carboxylic acid) were found at concentrations of upto 7 times higher than their parent drugs in wastewater influent and effluent. This is the first study in India to report mass loading and emission of PPCPs and their select metabolites in STPs. The total mass load of all PPCPs analyzed in this study at STPU (4.97 g/d/1000 inhabitants) was 3.6 times higher than calculated for STPM. Select recalcitrant PPCPs (carbamazepine, diazepam, and clopidogrel) were found to have negative or no removal from STPU while additional treatment with upflow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor at STPM removed (up to 95%) these PPCPs from STPM. Overall, 5.1 kg of caffeine, 4.1 kg of atenolol, 2.7 kg of ibuprofen, and 1.9 kg of triclocarban were discharged annually from STPU. The PPCP contamination profile in the Indian STP was compared with a similar study in the USA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01-01-2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)

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