The development of a novel passive water sampler for highly-polar cytotoxic drugs in aquatic systems.

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Lancaster Environment Centre


The environmental occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in aquatic systems is recognized as an area of increasing concern (Halling-Sorensen et al. 2004). To date, the main focus for environmental research has been on pharmaceuticals of intermediate polarity (Log Kow >1) and not on highly polar compounds (Log Kow -1 to 1) such as cytotoxic drugs (chemotherapy agents). These chemicals by their very nature are designed to prevent or disrupt cellular proliferation and have fetotoxic, genotoxic and teratogenic properties and are considered to be the most dangerous contaminants present in river systems (Rowney et al., 2009). The occurrence of these chemicals in the environment occurs primarily due to discharge from waste-water treatment works (WWTW). WWTW processes do not eliminate these chemicals resulting in trace quantities released with treated effluents into receiving waters. There are currently no regulatory requirements to monitor these chemicals in the environment or statutory maximum emission levels, although this is likely to change in the near future. Water treatment and supply companies, as well as regulatory agencies such as the Environment Agency, OFWAT and the Drinking Water Insepctorate are aware of these emerging chemical contaminants and are keen to see a robust sampling device coupled to a sensitive, reproducible analytical method to allow for routine measurements. The European Medical Agency (EMEA) (which licences the use of these drugs) has proposed that concentrations of 10 ng/L for an individual drug should serve as a trigger value for an environmental risk assessment and yet predicted environmental concentrations at several water intake sites on the River Thames exceed this value in some cases (Rowney et al 2009). The purpose of this studentship is to research a suitable passive sampling matrix to enable the routine, relatively low-cost monitoring of these chemicals in effluents and river water. These compounds are hydrophilic (i.e. log Kow ~-1 to 1) with high aqueous solubilities and present a significant technological and analytical challenge for developing a passive sampler but is entirely suitable for the NERC/ACTF studentship programme. The student, under the expert supervision of a team of Lancaster University and CEH scientists, will test the suitability of a number of polymeric sorbents for 13 of the most common cytotoxic drugs. The project will start by examining uptake/depuration kinetics to determine aquatic sampling rates and will be conducted under carefully controlled laboratory conditions. This work will be coupled to aquatic degradation/transformation experiments to examine chemical behaviour in a range of simulated water types. An analytical method, based on a high-resolution triple quadrupole LC-MS/MS system operated at CEH-Lancaster, will be utilised and the student will be expected to build on an initial analytical method developed for cyclophosphamide (common anticancer drug). Importantly, Unitied Utilities (UU), a major water supply/treatement company in the NW of England, will serve as a CASE partner providing additional training opportunities for the student (by allowing access to their analytical laboratory in Warrington) and allowing passive samplers to be deployed at their WWTWs. UU will be involved in all stages of the project and is keen to see the analytical method incorporated into their laboratory programme. It is anticipated that preliminary field data, obtained over a high spatial scale by deploying numerous passive samplers, will then be subject to chemical fate modelling and risk analysis. References Halling-Sorensen B, Nielsen SN, Lanzky PF, Ingerslev F, Lutzhoft HCH, Jorgensen SE. 1998. Occurrence, fate and effects of pharmaceutical substances in the environment - A review. Chemosphere 36: 357-394. (~800 citations, Nov 2009!) Rowney NC, Johnson, AC, Williams, RJ 2009. Cytotoxic drugs in drinking water. Env. Toxcol. & Chemistry. 28:2733


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