Microbially mediated degradation of common pharmaceuticals and personal care products in soil under aerobic and reduced oxygen conditions

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Biological degradation rates of estrogen compounds and common pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) were examined in soils with a long history of exposure to these compounds through wastewater effluent and in soil not previously exposed. Biological degradation rates over 14 days were compared under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Estrogen compounds including estrone, 17β-estradiol, estriol, and 17α-ethinylestradiol exhibited rapid degradation by soil microorganisms in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Rapid degradation rates for estrone, estriol, and 17α-ethinylestradiol occurred in pre-exposed soil under aerobic conditions; half-lives calculated under these conditions were 0.6, 0.7, and 0.8 day, respectively. Unexposed soil showed similar or slightly longer half-lives than pre-exposed soil under aerobic conditions. The exception was 17β-estradiol; in all treatments, degradation in unexposed soil resulted in a shorter half-life (2.1 versus 2.3 days). Anaerobic soils exhibited high biological degradation of estrogens as well. Half-lives of all estrogens ranged from 0.7 to 6.3 days in anaerobic soils. Triclosan degraded faster under aerobic conditions with half-lives of 5.9 and 8.9 days in exposed and unexposed soil. Under anaerobic conditions, triclosan half-lives were 15.3 days in unexposed and 28.8 days in exposed soil. Ibuprofen showed the least propensity toward biological degradation than other chemicals tested. Biological degradation of ibuprofen was only observed in unexposed soil; a half-life of 41.2 days was determined under anaerobic conditions and 121.9 days under aerobic conditions. Interestingly, unexposed soil exhibited a greater ability under anaerobic conditions to biologically degrade tested compounds than previously exposed soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-642
Number of pages10
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Effluent
  • Irrigation
  • Personal care products
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Soil


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