In this study the fate of pharmaceuticals and personal care products which are irrigated on arable land with treated municipal waste-water was investigated. In Braunschweig, Germany, wastewater has been irrigated continuously for more than 45 years. In the winter time only the effluent of the sewage treatment plant (STP) of Braunschweig is used for irrigation, while during summer digested sludge is mixed with the effluent. In the present case study six wells and four lysimeters located in one of the irrigated agricultural fields were monitored with regard to the occurrence of 52 pharmaceuticals and two personal care products (PPCPs; e.g. betablockers, antibiotics, antiphlogistics, carbamazepine, musk fragrances, iodinated contrast media (ICM) and estrogens). No differences in PPCP pollution of the groundwater were found due to irrigation of STP effluents with and without addition of digested sludge, because many polar compounds do not sorb to sludge and lipophilic compounds are not mobile in the soil-aquifer. Most of the selected PPCPs were never detected in any of the lysimeter or groundwater samples, although they were present in the treated wastewater irrigated onto the fields. In the groundwater and lysimeter samples primarily the ICM diatrizoate and iopamidol, the antiepileptic carbamazepine and the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole were detected up to several mu g l(-1), while the acidic pharmaceuticals, musk fragrances, estrogens and betablockers were likely sorbed or transformed while passing the top soil layer. Potential estrogenic effects are likely to disappear after irrigation, since the most potent steroid estrogens were not measurable. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.