Brazilian and American scientists have joined forces to compare water and sewage treatment systems to reveal what emerging contaminants are appearing in those environments.
Collecting water from a number of sources—groundwater, surface water, wastewater, drinking water, reuse water and sewage water—the study revealed the presence of contaminants such as industrial compounds, pesticides, personal hygiene products, medicines, caffeine, illegal drugs and more.
"Analysis of the presence of these compounds can indicate the level of contamination of the water system by sewage. It is also an indication that the water treatment stations are not efficiently removing emerging contaminants," said Cassiana Montagner, a professor at the Institute of Chemistry and head of the Environmental Chemistry Laboratory of the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in São Paulo, Brazil.
Using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, the compounds were isolated, quantified and identified. Also among those emerging contaminants identified included hormones.
"Some of these compounds are what are known as endocrine disrupters because they could have an adverse effect on our endocrine system," Montagner said.
"Compared to the United States, sanitation conditions in Brazil are quite precarious. Conventional wastewater treatment systems in Brazilian cities are not efficient at removing most of the emerging contaminants, such as bisphenol, used in the production of plastics," she said.
"The results of our studies indicate that some of the water treatments used in Brazil, if done properly, could remove a portion of these contaminants, but complementary treatments need to be adopted in order to obtain clean water that can be safely consumed," she added.
Montagner presented her research team's findings during FAPESP Week Nebraska-Texas, held on September 18 to 22, 2017.