Effectively removing medicine residues from wastewater

More and more medicines are being developed for a growing number of applications. As a result, treating wastewater from the pharmaceutical industry is an increasingly demanding task.

Alongside thorough analytical methods, EnviroChemie offers a range of processes for reliably removing critical substances from industrial wastewater.

Residues of medicine can be detected in water. This is the case for antibiotics, hormones and many other types of medication that people take or apply to their skin as an ointment. Wastewater is contaminated with residues of active pharmaceutical ingredients even during the production of pharmaceutical ingredients.

The range of medicines is steadily increasing, while at the same time more and more pharmaceuticals are being consumed due to demographic change. Therefore, the problem will inevitably be exacerbated in the future.

Only the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) have a medicinal effect. A considerable portion of the medication is excreted and ends up in wastewater in unchanged form or as a degradation product.

Active pharmaceuticals are not easily biodegradable

As a result, high concentrations of APIs contaminate wastewater in pharmaceutical plants and traces of the residues can ultimately also be found in municipal sewage treatment plants. The wastewater may not be discharged into sewage treatment plants without pretreatment. If wastewater experts deem certain APIs to be ecotoxicologically harmful, they should preferably be eliminated immediately at their source.

The pharmaceutical industry is therefore faced with the challenge of removing these residues from water effectively and cost-efficiently without harming the environment in the process. The tasks to be performed when treating wastewater from pharmaceutical production are becoming ever more diverse. Complex wastewaters are also subject to significant fluctuations.

Reducing the carbon footprint

Various methods – or combinations of methods – are considered for pretreating wastewater from pharmaceutical production. Incinerating this wastewater consumes a lot of energy and generates high CO2 emissions, while the HGV transport involved also increases the carbon footprint.

Advanced oxidation processes (AOP) are common today. These split APIs or other substances that are not easily biodegradable into smaller organic fragments, so that the wastewater can then be biologically treated in the subsequent steps. The choice of the right AOP depends on the type of wastewater and its components. In its own labs and pilot plants, EnviroChemie tests the various procedures for the different pharmaceuticals and develops an individual treatment method for each individual application.

A practical example

One example of this is the surfactant octoxynol 9, which is used as a solution in many rapid tests for Covid-19 and is therefore an example of a substance that can suddenly present a completely new challenge for wastewater treatment. Due to its toxicity, octoxynol 9 may not be released into wastewater even in small quantities. Producers are tasked with developing completely new solutions here; EnviroChemie has devised a custom treatment process on behalf of one of them. To this end, the wastewater specialist determined and tested the ideal parameters for the treatment in its own laboratories. Supplementary analyses from external specialist laboratories confirmed the decomposition results.

Advances oxidation process using ozone for the safe removal of medicine residues from wastewater

Some facts

  • The elimination of medical residues from wastewater is an increasingly demanding task
  • Eliminating problematic pharmaceutical ingredients at source
  • Tailor-made wastewater treatment solutions
  • Advanced oxidation processes for pretreating wastewater (e.g. hydrogen peroxide/UV, Ozone)
  • Reduce the carbon footprint with advanced water treatment

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EnviroChemie GmbH

In den Leppsteinswiesen 9
64380 Rossdorf

+49 6154 6998 72