National Water Quality Laboratory

Friday October 19, 2018

Environmental Science & Technology

Pharmaceutical Formulation Facilities as Sources of Opioids and Other Pharmaceuticals to Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluents

Patrick J. Phillips, Steven G. Smith, D.W. Koplin, Steven D. Zaugg, Herbert T. Buxton, Edward T. Furlong, Kathleen Esposito, and Beverley Stinson

June 2010

Facilities involved in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products are an under-investigated source of pharmaceuticals to the environment. Between 2004 and 2009, 35 to 38 effluent samples were collected from each of three wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in New York and analyzed for seven pharmaceuticals including opioids and muscle relaxants. Two WWTPs (NY2 and NY3) receive substantial flows (>20% of plant flow) from pharmaceutical formulation facilities (PFF) and one (NY1) receives no PFF flow. Samples of effluents from 23 WWTPs across the United States were analyzed once for these pharmaceuticals as part of a national survey. Maximum pharmaceutical effluent concentrations for the national survey and NY1 effluent samples were generally <1 µg/L. Four pharmaceuticals (methadone, oxycodone, butalbital, and metaxalone) in samples of NY3 effluent had median concentrations ranging from 3.4 to>400µg/L.Maximum concentrations of oxycodone (1700 µg/L) and metaxalone (3800 µg/L) in samples from NY3 effluent exceeded 1000 µg/L. Three pharmaceuticals (butalbital, carisoprodol, and oxycodone) in samples of NY2 effluent had median concentrations ranging from 2 to 11 µg/L. These findings suggest that current manufacturing practices at these PFFs can result in pharmaceuticals concentrations from 10 to 1000 times higher than those typically found in WWTP effluents.

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