Aquatic hazard assessment for pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine-disrupting compounds from biosolids-amended land

K. A. Langdon, M. S.T.J. Warne, R. S. Kookanaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Reuse of biosolids on agricultural land is a common practice. Following the application of biosolids to land, contaminants in the biosolids have the potential to migrate offsite via surface runoff and/or leaching and pose a hazard to aquatic ecosystems. The aim of this screening-level assessment study was to determine the relative hazard posed to aquatic ecosystems by pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) that have been detected and quantified in biosolids. This involved estimating maximum possible runoff water concentrations of compounds, using an equilibrium partitioning approach and then comparing these with the lowest available aquatic toxicity data, using the hazard quotient (HQ) approach. A total of 45 pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and EDCs have been detected in biosolids. Ten of these compounds (tonalide, galaxolide, 17b-estradiol, 17a-ethinylestradiol, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, norfloxacin, ofloxacin, triclosan, and triclocarban) posed a high (HQ >1.0) hazard to aquatic ecosystems relative to the other compounds. This hazard assessment indicated that further research into potential offsite migration and deleterious effects on aquatic ecosystems is warranted for the 10 organic contaminants identified, and possibly for chemicals with similar physicochemical and toxicological properties, in biosolids-amended soils. Because many antibiotic compounds (e.g., ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, and ofloxacin) have ionic properties, the methods used may have overestimated their predicted aqueous concentrations and hazard. Further research that includes site-specific variables, e.g., dilution factors in waterways, rain intensity, slope of land, degradation, and the use of management strategies such as buffer zones, is likely to decrease the hazard posed by these high hazard compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-676
Number of pages14
JournalIntegrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Issue number4
Early online date26 Mar 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Biosolids
  • Endocrine-disrupting compounds
  • Hazard assessment
  • Personal care products
  • Pharmaceuticals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science(all)


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