In this study, to examine the accumulated micropollutants in the spent carbon filter used in the water purifier, first, the method to desorb micropollutant from the activated carbon was developed and optimized. Then, using this optimized desorption conditions, we examined which micropollutants exist in spent carbon filters collected from houses in different regions in Korea where water purifiers were used. A total of 11 micropollutants (caffeine (CFF), acetaminophen (ACT), sulfamethazine (SMA), sulfamethoxazole (SMZ), metoprolol (MTP), carbamazepine (CBM), naproxen (NPX), bisphenol-A (BPA), ibuprofen (IBU), diclofenac (DCF), and triclocarban (TCB)) were analyzed using LC/MS-MS from the spent carbon filters. CFF, NPX, and DCF had the highest detection frequencies (>60%) in the carbon filters (n = 100), whereas SMA, SMZ, and MTP were only detected in the carbon filters, but not in the tap waters (n = 25), indicating that these micropollutants, which exist less than the detection limit in tap water, were accumulated in the carbon filters. The regional micropollutant detection patterns in the carbon filters showed higher levels of micropollutants, especially NPX, BPA, IBU, and DCF, in carbon filters collected in the Han River and Nakdong River basins where large cities exist. The levels of micropollutants in the carbon filter were generally lower in the regions where advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) were employed at nearby water treatment plants (WTPs), indicating that AOP process in WTP is quite effective in removing micropollutant. Our results suggest that desorption of micropollutant from the carbon filter used can be a tool to identify micropollutants present in tap water with trace amounts or below the detection limit.
Keywords: AOPs; Activated carbon; Desorption; Micropollutants; Optimization; Tap water.