Fate and distribution of pharmaceutically active compounds in mesocosm constructed wetlands

Yujie He, Nora B. Sutton, Yu Lei, Huub H.M. Rijnaarts, Alette A.M. Langenhoff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Removal of pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) in constructed wetlands (CWs) is a complex interplay of different processes. We studied fate and distribution of seven PhACs (caffeine, CAF; naproxen, NAP; metoprolol, MET; propranolol, PRO; ibuprofen, IBP; carbamazepine, CBZ; diclofenac, DFC) in mesocosm CWs and effects of irradiation via pre-photocatalysis, substrate composition (mainly sediment) through addition of litter (dead plant biomass), and plants. CWs showed high removal of CAF, NAP, MET, PRO, and IBP (79–99%). All seven PhACs were detected in substrate and plant tissues as well as IBP intermediates. Estimated PhAC mass balance showed that sorption dominated PRO removal in CWs while other PhACs were mainly removed by biodegradation and/or phytodegradation. Pre-photocatalysis significantly increased removal of PhACs except for CAF and IBP, and decreased accumulation of PhACs in substrate and plant tissues of the following wetland compartment. Litter addition in CW significantly enhanced removal of PRO and CBZ via biodegradation and/or phytodegradation. Plants played an essential and positive role in removing PhACs, resulting from direct phytoremediation and indirectly enhancing sorption and biodegradation. Our study provides knowledge to understand removal mechanisms of PhACs in CWs and to potentially enhance PhAC removal by developing pre-photocatalysis, adding dead plant biomass, and optimizing vegetation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-206
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2018


  • Effect of plants
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Pre-photocatalysis
  • Removal processes
  • Substrate composition


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