Project Details


Pharmaceuticals and personal care products are chemicals that are commonly used in many American households and contribute to the municipal waste stream. Some of these chemicals may be metabolized by the human body, but a large fraction is released directly into the waste stream. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products may have pharmacological activity, whereas others may interfere with hormonal systems by mimicking estrogen. This has an ecological impact on any animals that may be living in water that receives treated effluent, and could contaminate drinking water. We hypothesize that increasing temperature extremes resulting from climate change will have an effect on the rate of biodegradation activity, ultimately impacting the amount of these chemicals that can be removed during wastewater treatment and subsequent variability in the concentrations that are released into the environment. To address this issue we must first understand the mechanism whereby microorganisms degrade pharmaceutical and personal care products under anaerobic conditions. To this end, sewage sludge will be used to establish anaerobic enrichment cultures that amended with individual pharmaceuticals and personal care products. This will create ideal growth conditions to promote growth of specific organisms that are likely to have pharmaceutical and personal care product degrading capabilities resulting from continued exposure to household wastes.. We will monitor the concentrations of substrate, which will be an indication that biodegradation is occurring. We will further study the microbial community associated with these processes to identify specific metabolites and corresponding genetic markers. The result will be biochemical and genetic tools that will allow us to predict the potential for biodegradation, as well as evaluate the rate and extent of pharmaceutical and personal care product biodegradation during wastewater treatment.
Effective start/end date10/28/159/30/20


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))

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