Presence of pharmaceuticals in the Lis river (Portugal): Sources, fate and seasonal variation

Sci Total Environ. 2016 Dec 15;573:164-177. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.08.089. Epub 2016 Aug 22.


The occurrence of 33 pharmaceuticals and metabolites was evaluated along the Lis river and in the influents and effluents of two wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) located along the river. Results indicate that pharmaceuticals, such as ibuprofen, ketoprofen, carbamazepine and fluoxetine, and the metabolite salicylic acid are widespread along the Lis river, showing 100% of detection frequency, at levels up to 1.3μgL-1. The number of molecules detected increased along the river, with 11 molecules in the source, 15 upstream WWTP 1, 16 downstream WWTP 1 and upstream WWTP 2 and 19 downstream WWTP 2. The highest concentrations were often found downstream near the river mouth. Different possible sources of contamination of the Lis river were identified, namely WWTP effluents, untreated wastewaters and livestock production. Nevertheless, the discharge of WWTP effluents appeared to be the most pronounced, given that, in general, it was noticed an increase in the concentration of pharmaceuticals downstream of the WWTPs. WWTP effluents contributed with a total mass load of pharmaceuticals into the Lis river between 470 and 2317mg/d/1000 inhabitants. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs/analgesics were the therapeutic group with a high contribution to the total mass load of pharmaceuticals entering the Lis river, followed by psychiatric drugs and antibiotics. No seasonal variation was observed for the detected concentrations of pharmaceuticals. At the levels detected in the Lis river, sulfamethoxazole, clarithromycin, azithromycin and ibuprofen showed to have potential risk for aquatic organisms. These findings show that further studies embracing different environmental compartments (water, sediment and biota) are needed, in order to evaluate the partition/distribution of pharmaceuticals, their metabolites and transformation products in the environment as well as to predict their possible impact to non-target organisms and, in a last instance, to human health.

Keywords: Lis river; Metabolites; Pharmaceuticals; Risk assessment; Sources of pollution; Wastewaters.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / analysis*
  • Portugal
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Seasons*
  • Waste Water / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Waste Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical