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Occurrence, spatial and seasonal variation, and environmental risk of pharmaceutically active compounds in the Pearl River basin, South China

Lei, Haojun; Yao, Kaisheng; Yang, Bin; Xie, Lingtian; Ying, Guangguo

Summary

The occurrence, fate, and environmental risk of 40 pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) from surface waters and sediments were comprehensively investigated in the Beijiang River, Xijiang River, and Maozhou River of the Pearl River basin, South China. Salicylic acid and diclofenac (antiinflammatory drugs), gemfibrozil (a lipid regulator), carbamazepine (an antiepileptic drug), diazepam (a psychoactive drug), and 2-methyl-4-chloro-phenoxyacetic acid (MCPA, a pesticide) were the most ubiquitous compounds in the studied region. The average concentrations of detected PhACs in surface waters and sediments ranged from 0.17 to 19.1 ng/L and 0.10 to 10.4 ng/g, respectively. Meanwhile, PhACs concentration in surface waters and sediments varied greatly among and within the Beijiang River, Xijiang River, and Maozhou River. The largest annual flux of PhACs of the Xijiang River and Beijiang River was more than 11 000 kg per annum, whereas only 25.7 kg/a in the Maozhou River. In addition, the estimated emissions of PhACs in the Beijiang River, Xijiang River, and Maozhou River ranged respectively from 0.28 to 4.22 kg/a, 0.12 to 6.72 kg/a, and 6.66 to 91.0 kg/a, and the back-estimated usage varied with a range from 12.0 to 293 kg/a, 6.79 to 944 kg/a, 368 to 17 459 kg/a. Moreover, the emissions of PhACs showed a close relationship with the gross domestic product (GDP) of each city along the Pearl River. The environmental risk assessment suggested that diazepam and ibuprofen had a moderate risk in this region. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]