Detection and removal of biologically active organic micropollutants from hospital wastewater

Luis Castillo Meza, Paulina Piotrowski, James Farnan, Travis L. Tasker, Boya Xiong, Benedikt Weggler, Kyra Murrell, Frank L. Dorman, John P. Vanden Heuvel, William D. Burgos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle in an indexed scientific journalpeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The presence of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), such as antibiotics, antimicrobial disinfectants, nonprescription drugs, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and steroids, in water resources can impact aquatic and human health. A large portion of the CECs entering regional wastewater treatment plants originate from hospitals. The purposes of this study were to conduct exploratory analytical work to characterize two hospital wastewaters and to evaluate treatment of CECs at hospitals before dilution with domestic wastewater. A 24-h batch reaction with biogenic manganese oxides coated onto coir fiber was used to treat the wastewaters. Organic contaminants in the wastewaters were concentrated by both liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) and solid-phase extraction (SPE). LLE extracts were analyzed by Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography/Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (GC × GC-TOFMS) while SPE extracts were analyzedby UltraHigh Performance Liquid Chromatography/Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (UHPLC-TOFMS). Fifty-two organic micropollutants were detected (26 by GC × GC-TOFMS, 25 by UHPLC-TOFMS, 1 by both) in the wastewaters, while 29 were removed by >90% and six were degraded by <50% after treatment. Control experiments revealed that sorption to coir fiber and oxidation by manganese oxides were the primary contaminant removal mechanisms. Both the LLE and SPE extracts were used to evaluate potential human toxicity of the hospital wastewaters before and after treatment. Twenty-eight human cell-based bioreceptor assays were used to screen the wastewaters, and secondary tests were run to quantify toxicity equivalents to activated receptors. The wastewaters initially contained organic micropollutants that strongly activated the Androgen Receptor, Estrogen Receptor β, and the Mineralocorticoid Receptor but no bioactive compounds were detected after treatment. Point-of-entry treatment of hospital wastewater should reduce bioactive compounds from entering the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134469
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Contaminants of emerging concern
  • Hospitals
  • Manganese oxides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Toxicity

Types Minciencias

  • Artículos de investigación con calidad A1 / Q1


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