Mass loading and removal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products, including psychoactive and illicit drugs and artificial sweeteners, in five sewage treatment plants in India

Bikram Subedi, Keshava Balakrishna, Ravindra K. Sinha, Nobuyoshi Yamashita, Vellingiri G. Balasubramanian, Kurunthachalam Kannan

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Despite the high consumption of pharmaceuticals, mass loading and removal of these compounds in sewage treatment plants (STPs) in India have not been investigated. In this study, 43 pharmaceuticals and personal care products as well as 13 of their metabolites were analyzed in five domestic STPs (wastewater influent, effluent, and sludge) and in raw domestic sewage collected in open sewerage channels in residential areas in India. The mean concentrations of amphetamine in two of the five STPs (mean: 4300 ng/L and 4720 ng/L) were the highest ever reported for wastewater influents, globally. Among artificial sweeteners, saccharin was the most abundant compound in influents (mean: 303,000 ng/L, df: 100%), followed by cyclamate [3460 ng/L, detection frequency (df): 75%] and sucralose (1460 ng/L, df: 100%). Elevated mean concentrations of an antimicrobial (triclocarban = 6180 ng/L), analgesic (ibuprofen = 2320 ng/L), antihypertensive (atenolol = 3180 ng/L), illicit drug (amphetamine = 984 ng/L), and saccharin (419,000 ng/L) were found in the Cooum River in Chennai. The median removal efficiencies of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) ranged from 5% (norcocaine) to 100% (triclosan) for the five STPs. On the basis of the concentrations measured in influents, the mass loadings of PPCPs were estimated to range from 0.1 (norquetiapine) to 77,800 (saccharin) mg/d/1000 people. An estimated 2.55 kg of triclocarban, 3.24 kg of carbamazepine, 6.93 kg of amphetamine, and 252 kg of saccharin were discharged from a typical STP with an average flow rate of 20.7 million liters per day (serving a population of 325,000) in India.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2882-2891
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Chemical Engineering
Issue numberPart 4A
Publication statusPublished - 01-01-2015


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Process Chemistry and Technology

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