Pharmaceuticals in edible crops irrigated with reclaimed wastewater: Evidence from a large survey in Israel

Evyatar Ben Mordechay, Vered Mordehay, Jorge Tarchitzky, Benny Chefetz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Pharmaceuticals and other contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are continuously introduced into the agroecosystem via reclaimed wastewater irrigation, a common agricultural practice in water-scarce regions. Although reclaimed wastewater irrigated crops are sold and consumed, only limited information is available on the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and other CECs in edible produce. Here, we report data on CECs in irrigation water, soils, and crops collected from 445 commercial fields irrigated with reclaimed wastewater in Israel. The following produce were analyzed: leafy greens, carrot, potato, tomato, orange, tangerine, avocado, and banana. Pharmaceuticals and CECs were found in quantifiable levels in all irrigation water, soils, and plants (>99.6%). Leafy greens exhibited the largest number and the highest concentration of pharmaceuticals. Within the same crop, contamination levels varied due to wastewater source and quality of treatment, and soil characteristics. Anticonvulsants (carbamazepine, lamotrigine, and gabapentin) were the most dominant therapeutic group found in the reclaimed wastewater-soil-plant continuum. Antimicrobials were detected in ~85% of the water and soil samples, however they exhibited low detection frequencies and concentrations in produce. Irrigation with reclaimed wastewater should be limited to crops where the risk for pharmaceutical transfer to the food chain is minimal.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number126184
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Contaminants of emerging concern
  • Effluents
  • Plant uptake
  • Treated wastewater
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Water reuse


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