Environmental monitoring and assessment

Pharmaceuticals as emerging organic contaminants in Umgeni River water system, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

PMID 25027777


The occurrences of pharmaceuticals and personal care products as emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) have been reported in several countries of the world except from African countries. This study was therefore conducted to investigate the occurrence of nine antibiotics, five antipyretics, atenolol, bezafibrate, and caffeine in wastewater and surface water samples from the Umgeni River. The water samples were extracted with solid-phase extraction using hydrophilic-lipophilic balance (HLB) and C-18 cartridges for the acidic and neutral drugs, respectively. The quantification was carried out with high-performance liquid chromatography-diode array detector (HPLC-DAD) using the standard addition method. The method limits of detections were in the range of 0.14-0.97 μg/L while the recoveries were between 53.8 and 108.1 %. The wastewater had 100 % occurrence of the analytes studied, with caffeine having the highest concentration at 61 ± 5 μg/L and nalidixic acid being the most observed antibiotic at 31 ± 3 μg/L. The waste treatment process reduced the influent concentrations by 43.0-94.2 % before discharge except for atenolol removal that is lower. The concentrations of the analytes were lower in the surface water with most compounds having concentrations below 10 μg/L except acetaminophen and atenolol. The estuary mouth and Blue Lagoon had the highest concentrations of some of the compounds in surface water which depict downstream load. The factors governing the fate and mobility of these compounds in this environment are not fully understood yet and will require further studies.