Investigating the removal of some pharmaceutical compounds in hospital wastewater treatment plants operating in Saudi Arabia

Hamed M. Al Qarni, Phillip Collier, Juliette O'Keeffe, Joseph C. Akunna*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    83 Citations (Scopus)
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    The concentrations of 12 pharmaceutical compounds (atenolol, erythromycin, cyclophosphamide, paracetamol, bezafibrate, carbamazepine, ciprofloxacin, caffeine, clarithromycin, lidocaine, sulfamethoxazole and Nacetylsulfamethoxazol (NACS)) were investigated in the influents and effluents of two hospital wastewater treatment plants (HWWTPs) in Saudi Arabia. The majority of the target analytes were detected in the influent samples apart from bezafibrate, cyclophosphamide, and erythromycin. Caffeine and paracetamol were detected in the influent at particularly high concentrations up to 75 and 12 ug/L, respectively. High removal efficiencies of the pharmaceutical compounds were observed in both HWWTPs, with greater than 90 % removal on average. Paracetamol, sulfamethoxazole, NACS, ciprofloxacin, and caffeine were eliminated by between >95 and >99 % on average. Atenolol, carbamazepine, and clarithromycin were eliminated by >86 % on average. Of particular interest were the high removal efficiencies of carbamazepine and antibiotics that were achieved by the HWWTPs; these compounds have been reported to be relatively recalcitrant to biological treatment and are generally only partially removed. Elevated temperatures and high levels of sunlight were considered to be the main factors that enhanced the removal of these compounds.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)13003-13014
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
    Issue number13
    Early online date21 Mar 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


    • Pharmaceutical compounds
    • Wastewater
    • Temperature
    • Removal rates
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Desert Climate
    • Activated sludge


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