Holistic visualisation of the multimodal transport and fate of twelve pharmaceuticals in biosolid enriched topsoils

Leon Barron, Ekaterina Nesterenko, Kris Hart, Emma Power, Michael Quinn, Brian Kelleher, Brett Paull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


The use of municipal biosolids as agricultural fertilisers has raised significant concerns in recent years. As part of this, the presence of complex mixtures of pharmaceutical residues and their effects on soil ecosystems remains particularly under-researched. This study focuses on the transfer of a selection of pharmaceutical residues from municipal sewage sludge to agricultural topsoils and their fate therein after an accelerated 6-month rainfall event. Twelve pharmaceuticals encompassing antibiotics, analgesics, anti-inflammatories, beta-blockers, hyperlipidaemics and stimulants were invesigated by employing a combination of extraction techniques and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Both liquid- and solid-phase pharmaceutical contents were analysed and pharmaceutical and personal care products quantified at defined timepoints to elucidate transport behaviour and transformation potential. Results show the distribution and separation of pharmaceuticals over a 100-mm soil depth following typical biosolid enrichment. Using experimentally determined solid–water partition coefficients (K d) and hydrophobicity distribution ratios (D ow), mobility and modes of interaction under dynamic conditions are discussed. Finally, a brief study into the susceptibility of soil microbes is also presented. To our knowledge, this is the first investigation of pharmaceutical and personal care products release from amended biosolids to soils to include the factors and mechanisms governing their distribution and transformation even over relatively shallow depths. It applies multicompartmental and mass-balanced chemical analyses as well as microbiological approaches for a holistic view of these complex processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-296
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Pharmaceutical
  • Pollution
  • Environment
  • modeling
  • Ecotoxicology


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