Sorption and mobility of pharmaceutical compounds in soil irrigated with reclaimed wastewater

Benny Chefetz*, Tamar Mualem, Julius Ben-Ari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

267 Scopus citations


Use of reclaimed wastewater for irrigation is an important route for the introduction of pharmaceutical compounds (PCs) into the environment. In this study, the mobility and sorption-desorption behavior of carbamazepine, naproxen and diclofenac were studied in soil layers sampled from a plot irrigated with secondary-treated wastewater (STWW). Carbamazepine and diclofenac were significantly retarded in the 0-5 cm soil sample rich in soil organic matter (SOM): carbamazepine was not affected by the water quality (freshwater versus STWW), whereas diclofenac exhibited a higher retardation factor (RF) in the freshwater system. Naproxen exhibited significantly lower RFs than diclofenac but with a similar trend - higher retardation in the freshwater versus STWW system. In the 5-15 cm soil sample containing low SOM, naproxen was highly mobile while carbamazepine and diclofenac were still retarded. In the 15-25 cm sample, all compounds exhibited their lowest RFs. Sorption data suggested that SOM governs the studied PCs' interactions with the soil samples. However, higher carbon-normalized sorption coefficients were measured for the PCs in the 15-25 cm sample, suggesting that both quantity and the physicochemical nature of SOM affect sorption interactions. While both naproxen and carbamazepine exhibited reversible sorption isotherms, diclofenac exhibited pronounced sorption-desorption hysteresis. This study suggests that carbamazepine and diclofenac can be classified as slow-mobile compounds in SOM-rich soil layers. When these compounds pass this layer and/or introduced into SOM-poor soils, their mobility increases significantly. This emphasizes the potential transport of PCs to groundwater in semiarid zones due to intensive irrigation with reclaimed wastewater in SOM-poor soils.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1335-1343
Number of pages9
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Carbamazepine
  • Desorption
  • Diclofenac
  • Naproxen
  • Retardation
  • Transport


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