Behavior of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and hormones in a sewage treatment plant

Water Res. 2004 Jul;38(12):2918-26. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2004.03.029.


Two cosmetic ingredients (galaxolide, tonalide), eight pharmaceuticals (carbamazepine, diazepam, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, roxithromycin, sulfamethoxazole and iopromide) and three hormones (estrone, 17beta-estradiol and 17alpha-ethinylestradiol) have been surveyed along the different units of a municipal Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in Galicia, NW Spain. Among all the substances considered, significant concentrations in the influent were only found for the two musks (galaxolide and tonalide), two anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen and naproxen), two natural estrogens (estrone, 17beta-estradiol), one antibiotic (sulfamethoxazole) and the X-ray contrast medium (iopromide), where the other compounds studied were below the limit of quantification. In the primary treatment, only the fragrances (30-50%) and 17beta-estradiol (20%) were partially removed. On the other hand, the aerobic treatment (activated sludges) caused an important reduction in all compounds detected, between 35% and 75%, with the exception of iopromide, which remained in the aqueous phase. The overall removal efficiencies within the STP ranged between 70-90% for the fragrances, 40-65% for the anti-inflammatories, around 65% for 17beta-estradiol and 60% for sulfamethoxazole. However, the concentration of estrone increased along the treatment due to the partial oxidation of 17beta-estradiol in the aeration tank.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Cosmetics*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Hormones / analysis*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / analysis*
  • Sewage / chemistry*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Purification


  • Cosmetics
  • Hormones
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Sewage
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical