Mass flows of x-ray contrast media and cytostatics in hospital wastewater

David Weissbrodt, Lubomira Kovalova, Christoph Ort, Vinitha Pazhepurackel, Ruedi Moser, Juliane Hollender, Hansruedi Siegrist, Christa S. Mcardell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    105 Citations (Scopus)


    Little is known about the significance of hospitals as point sources for emission of organic micropollutants into the aquatic environment. A mass flow analysis of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics used in hospitals was performed on the site of a representative Swiss cantonal hospital. Specifically, we analyzed the consumption of iodinated X-ray contrast media (ICM) and cytostatics in their corresponding medical applications of radiology and oncology, respectively, and their discharge into hospital wastewater and eventually into the wastewater of the municipal wastewater treatment plant. Emission levels within one day and over several days were found to correlate with the pharmacokinetic excretion pattern and the consumed amounts in the hospital during these days. ICM total emissions vary substantially from day to day from 255 to 1259 g/d, with a maximum on the day when the highest radiology treatment occurred. Parent cytostatic compounds reach maximal emissions of 8-10 mg/d. A total of 1.1%, 1.4%, and 3.7% of the excreted amounts of the cytostatics 5-fluorouracil, gemcitabine, and 2′,2′-difluorodeoxyuridine (main metabolite of gemcitabine), respectively, were found in the hospital wastewater, whereas 49% of the total ICM was detected, showing a high variability among the compounds. These recoveries can essentially be explained by the high amount administered to out-patients (70% for cytostatics and 50% for ICM); therefore, only part of this dose is expected to be excreted on-site. In addition, this study emphasizes critical issues to consider when sampling in hospital sewer systems. Flow proportional sampling over a longer period is crucial to compute robust hospital mass flows.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4810-4817
    Number of pages8
    JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology (Washington)
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2009

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