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Fate and impacts of pharmaceuticals and personal care products after repeated applications of organic waste products in long-term field experiments (under cunstruction)

Marjolaine Bourdat-Deschamps (a), Sabrina Ferhi (a), Nathalie Bernet (a), Fréderic Feder (c), Olivier Crouzet (b), Dominique Patureau (d), Denis Montenach (e), Géraud D Moussard (c), Vincent Mercier (a), Pierre Benoit (a), Sabine Houot (a)

Bourdat-Deschamps & al., 2017
Bourdat-Deschamps & al., Science of The Total Environment Volumes 607–608, 31 December 2017, Pages 271-280

Recycling of the organic waste products (OWP) in agriculture is a practice currently encouraged for their fertilizing properties but also because it can, among others, increase the organic matter content of soil. However, the application may indirectly contribute to the dissemination of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), considered as emerging pollutants, in the environment and may impact the organisms and biodiversity of soil and aquatic ecosystems. The objectives of this study were to determine the concentration levels of several PPCPs and to evaluate the potential ecotoxicological risks for the environment of repeated applications of OWPs.  

Main results

In France, the medicines consumption for human and animals is high. Following treatment, pharmaceuticals can be excreted unchanged, with variable excretion rate and end up in manure or wastewater, respectively [1]. Moreover, personal care products (PPCPs) such as bactericides (e.g., triclosan) are also retrieved in wastewater [2]. The recycling of the organic waste products (OWPs) in agriculture is a potential route for the dispersion of pharmaceutical residues in the environment. The primary risk are from antibiotics disseminated in soils and the selection for antimicrobial resistance [3] and from all types of PPCPs (i.e., antibiotics, antidepressants, and endocrine disruptors, among others) with ecotoxicological impacts on soil organisms, such as earthworms, plant seeds, and microorganisms [4].

The objectives of this work were to determine the concentration levels of several PPCPs in different environmental matrices under different agro-pedo-climatic contexts, to determine dissipation half-lives in field condition by comparing the concentrations PPCPs measured in soils with the predicted ones and to evaluate the potential ecotoxicological risks for the environment of repeated applications of OWPs using a risk quotient approach.

In this study, the concentration of thirteen pharmaceuticals and the PPCPs triclosan were determined in different environmental matrices from long-term experimental fields amended with different OWPs, including sludge, composted sludge with green wastes, livestock effluents and composted urban wastes applied at usual agricultural rates. PPCP concentrations were different in OWPs, varying from a few micrograms to milligrams per kilograms dry matter or per liter for slurry (figure 1).

figure 1 Bourdat-Deschamps et al., 2017

Figure 1: Pharmaceutical concentrations in livestock effluents (mean and standard deviation, n=3, except n=2 for poultry manure at RUN).

OWPs from sludge or livestock effluents primarily contained antibiotics, whereas composted urban wastes primarily contained anti-inflammatory compounds. PPCP content in soils amended for several years were less than a few micrograms per kilogram. The most persistent compounds (fluoroquinolones, carbamazepine) were quantified or detected in soils amended with sludge or composted sludge. In soils amended with composted municipal solid waste, carbamazepine was quantified, and fluoroquinolones, ibuprofen and diclofenac were sometimes detected. The small increases in fluoroquinolones and carbamazepine in soils after individual OWP applications were consistent with the fluxes from the applied OWP. The measured concentrations of pharmaceuticals in soils after successive OWP applications were lower than the predicted concentrations because of degradation, strong sorption to soil constituents and/or leaching. Dissipation half-lives (DT50) were approximately 750-2500, 900 and <300 days for fluoroquinolones, carbamazepine and ibuprofen, respectively, in temperate soils and <350 and <80 days for fluoroquinolones and doxycycline, respectively, in tropical soils. Detection frequencies in soils leachates were very low. The most frequently detected pharmaceuticals were carbamazepine and ibuprofen. Based on the risk quotient, the estimated ecotoxicological risks for different soil organisms were low (figure 2).

figure 2 Bourdat-Deschamps 2017

Figure 2 : légende


1. Monteiro, S.C., Boxall, A.B., 2010. Occurrence and fate of human pharmaceuticals in the Environment. Reviews of environmental contamination and toxicology. 2010. In: Whitacre, D.M. (Ed.), Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Springer Science+Business Media

2. Singer, H., Müller, S., Tixier, C., Pillonel, L., 2002. Triclosan: occurrence and fate of a widely used biocide in the aquatic environment: field measurements in wastewater treatment plants, surface waters, and lake sediments. Environ. Sci. Technol. 36, 4998–5004.

3. Williams-Nguyen, J., Sallach, J.B., Bartelt-Hunt, S., Boxall, A.B., Durso, L.M., McLain, J.E., Singer, R.S., Snow, D.D., Zilles, J.L., 2016. Antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in agroecosystems: state of the science. J. Environ. Qual. 45, 394–406.

4. Verlicchi, P., Zambello, E., 2015. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in untreated and treated sewage sludge: occurrence and environmental risk in the case of application on soil-a critical review. Sci. Total Environ. 538, 750–767.


(a) UMR ECOSYS, INRA, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, 78850 Thiverval-Grignon, France

(b) UMR ECOSYS, INRA, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, 78026 Versailles, France

(c) CIRAD, UPR Recyclage et risque, 97408 Saint-Denis, Réunion, France

(d) LBE, INRA, Université Montpellier, 11100 Narbonne, France

(e) UE SEAV, INRA, 68021 Colmar, France

See also

References "To go further"