[Pharmwaste] Clay helps clean up pharmaceutical pollution

DeBiasi,Deborah dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Mon Mar 30 11:45:47 EDT 2009


Clay helps clean up pharmaceutical pollution  
Source: European Commission, Environment DG 
Published Mar. 24, 2009 

A new study explains how modified clay could be used to clean up
pharmaceutical pollution in water supplies. It may present a viable, low
cost option for treatment of wastewater in constructed wetlands in
particular. The study focuses on some frequently detected
pharmaceuticals, including ibuprofen. 
Pharmaceuticals are commonly detected during water pollution monitoring.
Some show up in drinking water as well as in ground water. Inevitably,
more widely used drugs cause higher levels of contamination and can be
very difficult to eliminate completely. Additionally, some treatment
methods for removing pharmaceuticals from wastewater are considered too
expensive for use on a large scale.

Portuguese researchers have now demonstrated that artificially modified
clay, known as LECA, light expanded clay aggregates, can significantly
reduce concentrations of ibuprofen and an anti-epileptic drug called
carbamazepine in water. This material is capable of removing up to 90
per cent of each drug from water, although its efficiency decreases
slightly with increasing concentrations of the pollutants. The
researchers observed lower efficiency rates in wastewater than clean

LECA was less effective at removing clofibric acid, a widely used blood
lipid regulating drug, but the researchers identified a silicate called
vermiculite as more capable at removing clofibric acid. For both
materials, the first 24 hours of the process was the most important, and
saw the majority of the pharmaceuticals removed.

Ibuprofen is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world and causes
high levels of environmental pollution. Although much of this drug is
removed in wastewater treatment plants, a substantial part of it remains
after the treatment. This is due to the high levels present in the
continually incoming wastewater. Wastewater treatment processes are
particularly inefficient at removing carbamazepine. These and other
drugs may be damaging to aquatic life; they may also be damaging to
humans if they persist in drinking water supplies. The effects of a
multitude of drugs and other chemicals in water supplies are not yet
well understood and require further investigation.

Deborah L. DeBiasi 
Email:   dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov 
WEB site address:  www.deq.virginia.gov 
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality 
Office of Water Permit Programs 
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program 
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents 
Mail:          P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218 (NEW!) 
Location:  629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA  23219 
PH:         804-698-4028 
FAX:      804-698-4032 

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