Drug molecules are routinely passing through wastewater treatments unscathed
Drug molecules are routinely passing through wastewater treatments unscathed, contaminating sewage outflows and accumulating in water supplies as a result. Thirty years ago, drug molecules could be measured in surface water in only nanogram quantities per litre, Luigi Campanella from the University of Rome ’La Sapienza’ told delegates at the World Chemistry Congress in Turin. But today, certain pharmaceuticals are found at microgram levels, and are proving tougher to eradicate than chemists had once hoped.
Campanella and colleagues found that a combination of a titanium dioxide photocatalyst, plus ultraviolet and microwave irradiation, were all required for complete breakdown of some compounds. Tests showed that if any of the three components was missing, breakdown was incomplete.
This system could be used as a cheap and simple water treatment at the exit point of sewage works, said Campanella, who adds that he has already had interest from companies looking to trial the technology on a larger scale.
James Mitchell Cow