The top 200 named and 200 generic drugs had a total market value of U$171 billion in 2007. Therefore, it is not surprising that pharmaceutically active compounds (pharmaceuticals) are being found in natural waters due to their partial removal during wastewater treatment. They have also been reported in drinking water, after treatment. Neither wastewater nor water treatment systems were designed to remove trace concentrations of organic compounds. Because of their possible human health effects and ecological impacts, even at trace concentrations, this issue has raised concern among the public, scientists and engineers, and regulatory groups. This proposal seeks to better understand the sunlight induced, direct and indirect, photochemistry of 10 pharmaceutical compounds to better define their environmental fate. Preliminary data has been obtained for four compounds that informs our research approach and defines experimental methods. Knowledge of the environmental fate of a pharmaceuticals in natural waters is critical to eventually predicting environmental risk.

The technical approach will involve studying in detail 10 pharmaceutical compounds selected on the basis of their sales and molecular structures representative of other pharmaceutical compounds. This research project has one overarching goal: To provide insight into the environmental fate of selected pharmaceutical compounds, with the emphasis on their sunlight induced photochemical fate in natural waters. The transformative aspect of this study will be developing methodologies for assessing all of the photochemical pathways that account for the fate of chemicals in natural waters, and, then be able to apportion the loss of the pharmaceuticals to the various pathways, quantitatively. This goal will be achieved through testing two overarching hypothesis: (a) direct sunlight photolysis will occur in those compounds that have electronic absorbance spectra above 300 nm (i.e. overlap with the solar spectrum), and (b) indirect photolysis, reactions with photochemically produced singlet oxygen, hydroxyl radical or excited state dissolved organic matter, will play a major role in attenuating natural water concentrations of these pharmaceuticals.

This project will expand the body of knowledge available to engineers and scientists involved in the issue of pharmaceuticals in water. The project will support a junior research associate, a graduate student and potentially undergraduate students through a REU Supplement. The research will involve two California State University campuses, Long Beach and Los Angeles, minority serving institutions, to develop a ?pipeline? of highly qualified undergraduate and graduate (M.S.) students to UCI. UCI undergraduate students will also work in the summer funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program at UCI. The work will also involve a high school teacher through a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Supplement. High school students being mentored at UCI will be involved in this project over the summer months and through the school year if schedules permit. A 20-30 minute HD documentary on ?Pharmaceuticals in Water? will be produced. This can then be used in public lectures, high schools and public venues such as Rotary International meetings, and will be available on the Urban Water Research Center?s web site. A shorter version will also be produced to be used for educational opportunities, such as the Wyland Foundation?s Mobile Learning Center. This learning center travels around the US and recently went into Mexico, as well. Web content to support Water Innovation Now, a contest for K-12 graders, empowered to make a difference, will be produced as part of this project.

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University of California Irvine
United States
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