Effect of anaerobic digestion at 35, 55 and 60°C on pharmaceuticals and organic contaminants

Åsa Davidsson, H. Kjerstadius, S. Haghighatafshar, J. Fick, Mikael Emil Olsson, H. Wachtmeister, Eva Eriksson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The application of treated sewage sludge on farmland is a suggested method for recycling nutrients and reducing demand for commercial fertilizer. However, sludge needs to be safe from possible contaminants which can cause acute and long-term health and environmental problems. Residual pharmaceuticals and organic contaminants are mentioned as emerging threats since wastewater treatment plants are not designed to degrade these substances. The aim of this study was to screen and evaluate the presence, and reduction, of pharmaceuticals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) during anaerobic digestion of mixed primary and waste-activated sludge at 35, 55 and 60°C and during pasteurization at 70°C. The study showed the difficulty of analysing pharmaceutical compounds in low concentrations in the sludge matrix. No general reduction of these compounds was seen during treatment, but for individual substances some reduction occured. The PAHs were generally not reduced during digestion or pasteurization, but for three substances (indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene and dibenzo[a,h]anthracene (analysed together) and benzo[g,h,i]perylene) reduction (up to 60%) during digestion was seen. Digestion at 35 and 55°C resulted in about the same order of reduction of the three individual PAHs, which was higher than for digestion at 60°C. © IWA Publishing 2014.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Science and Technology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1282-1288
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Organic contaminants
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Sludge
  • Drug products
  • Pasteurization
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Sewage sludge
  • Commercial fertilizers
  • Environmental problems
  • Organic contaminant
  • Pharmaceutical compounds
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS)
  • Waste activated sludges
  • Wastewater treatment plants
  • acenaphthylene
  • acetic acid ethyl ester
  • acetonitrile
  • ammonia
  • anthracene
  • benzo[a]pyrene
  • benzo[b]fluoranthene
  • benz[a]anthracene
  • dibenz[a,h]anthracene
  • formic acid
  • nitrogen
  • organic compound
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon
  • volatile fatty acid
  • zirconium
  • activated sludge
  • agricultural land
  • anoxic conditions
  • chemical pollutant
  • drug
  • fertilizer
  • nutrient cycling
  • organic pollutant
  • PAH
  • pyrene
  • recycling
  • sewage treatment
  • wastewater
  • anaerobic digestion
  • article
  • drug industry
  • mass fragmentography
  • organic pollution
  • pasteurization
  • sludge
  • stirred reactor
  • waste water management
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Polycyclic Hydrocarbons, Aromatic
  • Sewage
  • Temperature
  • Waste Management
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical


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