Uptake of three antibiotics and an antiepileptic drug by wheat crops spray irrigated with wastewater treatment plant effluent

Alison M. Franklin, Clinton F. Williams, Danielle M. Andrews, Emily E. Woodward, John E. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


With rising demands on water supplies necessitating water reuse, wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent is often used to irrigate agricultural lands. Emerging contaminants, like pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), are frequently found in effluent due to limited removal during WWTP processes. Concern has arisen about the environmental fate of PPCPs, especially regarding plant uptake. The aim of this study was to analyze uptake of sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, ofloxacin, and carbamazepine in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) plants that were spray-irrigated with WWTP effluent. Wheat was collected before and during harvest, and plants were divided into grain and straw. Subsamples were rinsed with methanol to remove compounds adhering to surfaces. All plant tissues underwent liquid-solid extraction, solid-phase extraction cleanup, and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry analysis. Residues of each compound were present on most plant surfaces. Ofloxacin was found throughout the plant, with higher concentrations in the straw (10.2 ± 7.05 ng g-1]) and lower concentrations in the grain (2.28 ± 0.89 ng g-1). Trimethoprim was found only on grain or straw surfaces, whereas carbamazepine and sulfamethoxazole were concentrated within the grain (1.88 ± 2.11 and 0.64 ± 0.37 ng g-1, respectively). These findings demonstrate that PPCPs can be taken up into wheat plants and adhere to plant surfaces when WWTP effluent is spray-irrigated. The presence of PPCPs within and on the surfaces of plants used as food sources raises the question of potential health risks for humans and animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-554
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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