Sorption of three common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to microplastics

Armando Elizalde-Velázquez, Seenivasan Subbiah, Todd A. Anderson, Micah J. Green, Xiaofei Zhao, Jaclyn E. Cañas-Carrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


High disposability, high durability, and indiscriminate use have led to the accumulation of plastics at uncontrolled rates in the environment. However, plastics are not the only source of water pollution in the environment. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a group of pharmaceuticals widely and highly consumed in the market due to a low price and over-the-counter accessibility. NSAIDs are frequently detected in surface water environments at μg L−1 concentrations. In the present study, the sorption behavior of three NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac) was examined with four types of microplastics (polystyrene (PS), ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), average molecular weight medium density polyethylene (AMWPE), and polypropylene (PP)), under varying water conditions. Low sorption occurred between NSAIDs and microplastics under environmentally relevant conditions. The sorption process exhibited a pronounced pH dependency due to the effect of pH on the speciation of the compounds and the surface charge of the particles. Only under acidic conditions (pH: 2), NSAIDs were highly sorbed onto microplastics mainly ruled by hydrophobic interactions. Among NSAIDs tested, diclofenac exhibited the highest sorption coefficients to microplastics. Polyethylene particles exhibited the highest affinity for NSAIDs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136974
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Microplastic
  • NSAIDs
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Salinity
  • Sorption
  • pH


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